HK$500,000 to reserve place in Hong Kong's English schools
Non-refundable debenture scheme aimed at funding replacement of run-down campuses could put schools out of reach for many
The English Schools Foundation has introduced a new debenture scheme seeking HK$500,000 to reserve a place - a sum almost 10 times the maximum amount specified in its former corporate scheme.
Under the new ESF Nomination Rights Scheme, introduced to help maintain and replace the foundation's ageing campuses, local and overseas parents wishing to reserve a place in any age group from next year will have to pay the non-refundable debenture for each child. They will be given priority placement in an ESF school, provided they meet the admissions requirements.
Under the previous Corporate Surety Scheme, applying only to overseas children, companies paid one to six months' school fees in advance depending on how early they applied - a maximum of about HK$58,000 for a Year 7 place and HK$39,000 for a junior place.
The new scheme has been introduced as international school debentures are rising because of a shortage of places.
Parents said middle-class parents would be hardest-hit and might not be able to afford to send children to ESF schools.
The foundation said proceeds would be reserved for capital projects. Treasurer Robert Gazzi said the new debenture was in line with the ESF's goal of raising HK$1 billion every decade for the next 50 years to ensure its schools were in good condition and could be replaced when necessary.
As with the previous system, 150 places will be reserved for applications, which will open on October 3 for students seeking admission in August next year.
In the first month, priority will be given to applicants from overseas and foreign passport holders living in Hong Kong.
The ESF runs 15 schools of which the oldest is King George V School in Ho Man Tin, built in 1938. It also needs to rebuild Island School in Mid-Levels.
"Island School's concrete structure has been giving concern for a number of years and the design does not meet modern standards," Gazzi said.
"The cost of replacing the school was estimated about two years ago to be at least HK$800 million at today's prices and while ESF hopes that the government will fund part of the cost, it faces the prospect of having to find around half of that sum from its own resources."
The foundation's annual government subvention of HK$283 million - now under review by the Education Bureau - has been frozen for a decade.
Hong Kong International School chief advancement officer Erik Dierks said the upward trend in debentures was market driven. "It is quite challenging getting into international schools." The school charges HK$2 million, one of the highest debentures.
A spokesman for the German-Swiss International School, where debentures range from HK$262,500 to HK$375,000, said the school had "many hundreds who have expressed their desire to purchase a debenture".