ESF - English Schools Foundation

Discovery College bows to fee push

Discovery College cuts proposed tuition increase by about 2 percentage points but parents say they are paying for management's mistakes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 4:03am

Discovery College has reduced its proposed fee increases following opposition from parents, but pressure remains for the Education Bureau to look into its finances.

Annual tuition fees at the Lantau Island private school will rise by 7.6 per cent instead of the previously announced 9.5 per cent for the coming year.

This takes them to HK$89,500 a year for primary pupils and HK$119,880-HK$121,100 for secondary ones. But an annual non-refundable building levy of HK$5,900 for each student remains in place.

The operator, ESF Educational Services - an affiliate of the English Schools Foundation - has recorded continual annual deficits and needs to repay a construction loan to the foundation.

To enable the smaller fee increases, the ESF has agreed to extend the repayment terms of its development and operating agreement with its affiliate by an extra five years, extending the projected break-even point by two years to 2018-19.

The fee increases are subject to Education Bureau approval.

Parents who have been campaigning against the increases are still unhappy and have demanded a meeting with education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim. The local district councillor is threatening to take the complaint to the Legislative Council.

Until very recently, there was no long-term building maintenance plan in place at DC. We are all still puzzled how the Education Bureau can approve all this

"Until very recently, there was no long-term building maintenance plan in place at DC," said a member of the Discovery College Parents Action Group. "We are all still puzzled how the Education Bureau can approve all this."

More than 100 parents who formed the action group accuse the college of serious mismanagement and object to what they call the "parents pay" rule.

The Islands District councillor for Discovery Bay, Amy Yung Wing-sheung, described the school as a white elephant and urged the bureau to step in.

"From the outset, the management of the school has adopted a very arrogant attitude, refusing to listen to local views. Good governance would mean that it would have taken actions to cut costs. It is sad that the parents have to bear the consequence."

She vowed to take the case to the Legco complaints division if the bureau did not respond within two weeks.

The college opened in 2008 and has 1,100 pupils. As a private independent school, it qualifies for free land and a capital grant from the bureau.

The school cited staffing costs and an underestimation of initial pupil numbers among reasons for the fee rise.

It says the building levy is needed for the state-of-the-art school's 50-year maintenance plan.

To augment income, it added classes in Year 1 and 2 this year and plans to bring in another Year 3 class in the coming year.