English Schools Foundation parents call on Hong Kong chief executive to probe fee rises

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 2:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 9:04am

English Schools Foundation parents urged Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to look personally into an average 5 per cent fee rise announced yesterday.

The increase is the first important decision by the foundation since Belinda Greer took over as chief executive from Heather Du Quesnay in September. Greer said the increase was to cope with inflation, a 3.5 per cent pay rise for teachers and building costs.

But parent Hans Ladegaard said annual fee rises by the ESF - the largest provider of English-medium education in Hong Kong - had frozen out lower middle-class families.

"There're only elite schools left in Hong Kong and nowhere for lower middle-class kids to go."

Angie Lam, a member of an ESF parents' concern group, said the rise was unacceptable and the foundation should try to cut costs instead of "squeezing parents to pay more every year".

Lam, who has two children at ESF schools, accused Leung of failing to keep a promise that he would monitor the foundation closely and urged him to take a personal look at the increase.

The fee for primary classes in the coming school year will be HK$74,100, up about 5.9 per cent. For secondary years 7 to 11 it will be HK$105,700, up 4.2 per cent. The year 12 to 13 charge of HK$111,100 is a 4.5 per cent rise.

The Education Bureau said last year its annual subsidy of HK$283 million to the ESF would be phased out over 13 years from 2016.

Greer said the real challenge was how to prepare for the loss of the subsidy so fees remained lower than most international schools while improving standards. "We don't want to price people out," she said. "We want to continue to serve our families that we've been serving in the last 50 years."

The ESF also announced an increase of about 6.6 per cent for 2014-15 tuition fees at Discovery College on Lantau.

Watch: New chief vows English Schools Foundation will stay affordable