Angry parents protest at Discovery College's hefty fee increase
Parents at Discovery College angry about hefty fee increases have urged the Education Bureau to conduct an independent review of the school's finances.
In a letter to Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim, about 150 parents warned of an exodus of pupils from the school after a proposed rise of 12 to 14 per cent in tuition fees and a non-refundable building levy for next year.
That would mean an overall increase of 54 per cent by 2017, the Discovery College Parents Concern Group said in the letter, found also on their Facebook page. Fees for the Discovery Bay school's primary section had risen 53 per cent since it opened in 2006-07, they added.
The group criticised the English Schools Foundation (ESF) and its affiliate, ESF Educational Services Ltd (ESL) - the school's operator - for putting the college in significant financial difficulties through bad planning, overestimating student intake and underestimating teacher salaries, among other issues.
For annual tuition fees alone, ESF has proposed a 9.5 per cent increase to HK$91,100 for primary school pupils, and to HK$123,200 for secondary pupils for the coming year. There will also be a non-refundable annual building levy of HK$5,900. ESL cited the need for extra staffing for new classes to be opened in August and to break even by 2016-17 after recording annual financial deficits as reasons.
The group charged that the increases were a result of flawed financial models. It also criticised the operating body for failing to exercise good governance and to protect parents' interests. "Although ESL knew of the financial problems for years, parents were informed only in 2011. Since then, despite the school management enacting measures … the financial situation has worsened and the forecast fee increases have risen dramatically," they wrote.
In response, an ESF spokesman said the directors of ESL and the school council would announce a revised proposal soon.
An Education Bureau spokesman said it would consider the fee rise application according to established principles and remind the school to take into consideration parents' ability to pay.