ESF warns of 20pc fee increase if government's subsidy is withdrawn
The English Schools Foundation yesterday warned that fees could go up by more than 20 per cent if its public funding is removed.
The warning came just a day after the Education Bureau raised the possibility of ending the decades-old subsidy to the English-language educational organisation and transforming it into a private international school system.
In a paper to be discussed in the Legislative Council next Monday, the bureau suggested options of 'repositioning' the ESF, including maintaining some form of subsidy but also migrating ESF schools towards 'eventual self-financing'.
The government also indicated that in areas where the ESF continues to be subsidised, more controls would be put in place to ensure the quality of its governance and financial accountability.
ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said yesterday: 'The subvention accounts for 20 per cent of our income. If it were withdrawn ... it [school-fee increase] would probably be at least 20 per cent,' she said.
Over the past five years, fees have increased 29 per cent in primary schools and 19 per cent in secondary schools, while a HK$25,000 refundable levy has also been introduced at secondary schools.
The latest increase of 2.2 to 3.3 per cent will bring next year's fees to HK$63,000 for primary schools and HK$95,100 to HK$97,100 for secondary schools. It has been estimated that the ESF gets a subsidy amounting to HK$20,000 for each primary student and HK$30,000 for secondary school students.
Last month Du Quesnay urged parents to petition the government for an increase in the subsidy, which has been frozen for the past 10 years. It currently stands at HK$283 million a year.
Legislator Cheung Man-kwong said that the ESF had to accept more supervision if it chose to continue as a subsidised school system. If subvention has to be phased out, he said, current students should not be affected.
Ron Abbott, an ESF parent who is a spokesman of Overseas Inspectors Association, said that a cut in funding would be 'disastrous' for many parents. 'Even without a cut, the situation is already becoming dire given the seemingly never-ending fee increases,' he said.
Amanda Chapman, the chairwoman of the 500-member Native English Speaking Teachers' Association - many of whose members send their children to ESF schools - said that the government had a duty to provide education to non-Cantonese-speaking children.
Annual fees for years nine to 12 at Hong Kong International School. Many international schools' fees are around 50 per cent higher than ESF's