The English Schools Foundation's fee-rise plan has upset parents and prompted lawmakers to question its cost structure.
Native English (NET) teacher Perry Bayer, whose son is studying at West Island School, said the increase of up to 5.9 per cent for most ESF schools was "disastrous" for families with young children, given the city's high rents. "They may start thinking whether they can put their children through primary and secondary levels," he said. He added that the move might cause some NET teachers, who valued education, to consider leaving the city, as they could no longer afford education in British schools.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the ESF used to pride itself in providing affordable international education.
"The huge increase may destroy the tradition," he said. He urged the foundation to review its cost structure to make room for school fee reductions. "Unlike other international schools, there are many schools under the ESF," he said. "Costs can be saved when they make bulk purchases and enjoy economies of scale."
In a letter to parents, the foundation's chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said it was aware of the impact of fee rises on parents and "very much regrets that this is so".
The increase was announced as the foundation and Education Bureau remain deadlocked over public funding for the schools.
Education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim has said it is not government policy to provide subsidies to schools that offer a non-local curriculum, as the ESF does.
He also ruled out treating the foundation like direct-subsidy schools - which receive government money but operate largely as private schools - as they are required to teach a local curriculum. But Du Quesnay has said the ESF schools, with their 13,000 students, were a part of Hong Kong.
Bayer said he did not have high hopes for the negotiations, as the government was "playing ball with the ESF".