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  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 4:24pm
NewsHong Kong
EDUCATION

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.

 

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pamsayang
The ESF got the land for DC free of charge from the government and they got a "donation" of HK$ 170 Mio from the government to support the construction cost. ESF had decades of experience with 15 existing schools in HKG before opening DC. Sound like the perfect precondition for running this new school, yet the ESF managed to mess it up. They even admitted to this mess up (flawed finance model and other poor management decisions) in 2 meetings held with DC parents. And still they are asking DC parents to clear up this mess through fee increases (building levy and tuition) of over 12% each year for the next 5 years. Where is the government? Why is no one stepping in to stop this? Cancel the ESF/ ESL operating license for DC and give it into the hands of capable people. Make sure current ESF Management (especially Du Quesnay, CEO since 2003, so the main responsible person for all this mess) get fired with no pay check to go!
dynamco
This is no doubt how the unfortunately named F anny Law suckered a non-businesswoman overpaid ESF head into playing at becoming a construction magnate.
Build Disco Bay, build Renaissance. Lumber ESF with mega debts/ let the parents pay for your mess.
www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200105/03/0503132.htm
“To meet the education needs of a growing expatriate community and to promote their integration into the local community, the Government will increase the provision of good quality, non-profit-making private independent schools, and encourage international school operators to run them. Non-profit making private independent schools are eligible for land grants at nominal premium and one-off construction grants from the Government.”
lilycel
"The school cited staffing costs and an underestimation of initial pupil numbers among reasons for the fee rise."
Underestimating pupil numbers? This doesn't make sense. DC leadership loves to brag about its waiting list... guess it isn't true... oh well...
donniemcm
Hum looks like ESF schools have serious money issues, any watch dog looking at it? It smells bad.
Especially when a 5 y.o. school has already a deficit.
Money has been quickly spent.
Not to mention recent news about the entry ticket of for new pupils.
hkbulib2
"the ESF has agreed to extend the repayment terms of its development and operating agreement with its affiliate by an extra five years"
Extended by only 5 years!
Now, the loan should be paid off in 25 years instead of 20. Why not the 40 years that was discussed?
Answer: they do not need to be accountable to the stakeholders... they do as they please.
Time to topple the statues!
ctringham
The ESF is accountable to its stakeholders - and there are plenty of ESF parents who complained that any money was lent to the two PIS schools. So it seems right that there is a compromise.
 
 
 
 
 

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