St Paul's Secondary School in Happy Valley to join Direct Subsidy Scheme

Parents, alumni say new fees may deny poorer families access to best education opportunities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 3:34am

One more school has applied to join the Education Bureau's Direct Subsidy Scheme, according to the bureau, despite the controversy stirred up by the St Stephen's Girls' College plan to convert to the scheme.

St Paul's Secondary School in Happy Valley - a Catholic girls' school with a history dating back more than 50 years - launched a consultation at the end of last year on joining the scheme in the 2014-15 school year.

The Education Bureau confirmed yesterday that a school had applied to join the scheme in that school year but did not name the school.

If St Paul's joins, it will add to a list of nine long-established and highly regarded secondary schools that have already done so. There are a total of 61 secondary schools in the scheme, receiving an annual lump sum subsidy from the government but retaining ultimate control over management and fees - two things that education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said were attractive to schools.

St Stephen's Girls' College and St Stephen's Girls' Primary School in Mid-Levels have proposed joining the scheme in 2015. But parents and alumni have voiced concern that the change will diminish equal opportunities in education by pricing the schools out of the reach of less well-off families.

Another group of parents will hold a press conference today to explain their reasons for supporting the scheme.

Some parents and alumni of St Paul's have also voiced opposition to the scheme, but not as strongly as those from St Stephen's, Ip said.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, an alumnus of St Paul's, said she shared concerns that social mobility would be reduced by the scheme, but added: "I believe in [the school management's] judgment."

She said the main reason for her alma mater to join the scheme was to escape control by the Education Bureau, especially amid concerns that it may otherwise be forced to implement the national education curriculum one day.

A group of alumni has already pledged to set up scholarships to help students who cannot afford the school fees, Mo said.

St Paul's had not responded to enquires as of last night.

Established, highly respected schools are among those that have joined the scheme one after another since 2002. And people are becoming increasingly aware of the impact it is having.

"It is creating a social crisis," Ip said.