Joy as government rejects St Paul's girls' school bid to charge tuition fees
Government rejects St Paul's Secondary School application to join Direct Subsidy Scheme and start charging tuition fees
The Education Bureau has turned down an elite government-aided school's bid to join the Direct Subsidy Scheme and start charging tuition fees.
The decision was greeted with joy by former pupils of St Paul's Secondary School in Happy Valley who had fought the plan. Last night, they urged the Catholic girls' school not to re-apply following the rejection.
If the application had been accepted, parents would have faced fees of up to HK$24,500 a year. Opponents argued the scheme would stop children from poorer families attending the school.
Without directly naming the school, a bureau spokesman said officials had now looked at its planned budget under the Direct Subsidy Scheme and the results of its consultations with the relevant stakeholders. "After detailed examination, the Education Bureau thinks the school has not proved that it has done enough preparation and has sufficient ability to offer quality education and run sustainably," the spokesman said. "Hence, the Education Bureau cannot approve the school to join the Direct Subsidy Scheme in 2014/15."
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who has helped the former pupils fight the funding change, said he had learned from the bureau that the unnamed school was indeed St Paul's Secondary School.
Under the Direct Subsidy Scheme, schools receive a lump-sum government subsidy and can establish their own curriculum and set tuition fees. As a government-aided school, St Paul's is run by a voluntary body but is fully funded by the government; it offers free tuition, but it must follow the curriculum recommended by the government.
Chan said that if the government could simply offer such schools more flexibility, then they may not want to join the Direct Subsidy Scheme.
Welcoming the news, Betty Wah Shan, who led the alumni's campaign against joining the scheme, said the school had not done enough consultation.
She said St Paul's had earlier sent out questionnaires about the switch to parents at its primary school division. "There were no choices to tick 'yes' or 'no' in the questionnaires. So I was puzzled how the school later said 24 per cent of parents supported the scheme and only about 3 per cent were against," she said.
Education-sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said financing was a main factor. "The bureau looks at whether the subsidy a school receives and the tuition it charges can cover its expenses," Ip said.
Education secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim would say only that the decision was based on professional judgment and 12 such applications had been rejected. The school did not respond to inquiries. St Stephen's Girls' College also wants to make the switch.