Prestigious Hong Kong government-funded school draws ire for considering self-funding switch

Principal and staff at Wah Yan College in Wan Chai discuss possibility of moving to direct subsidy scheme, to charge own fees

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 9:24pm

A prestigious aided school in Hong Kong revealed it might apply to become to a direct subsidy scheme (DSS) school, drawing criticism from educators for going against its original vision.

In a statement issued on Friday, Wah Yan College in Wan Chai said the principal and staff had recently discussed matters relating to the institution’s future development, including the possibility of switching to become a DSS school.

Introduced in 1991, the scheme allows schools to receive government assistance and collect their own fees. However, if the fees exceed two and one-third times the average unit cost of an aided school place, the government funding will cease. Aided schools, meanwhile, are fully government-funded and run by voluntary bodies.

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DSS institutions must set aside 10 per cent of their fee-generated income to for a fee remission and scholarship scheme. With the added cash-flow, they provide additional support services and facilities, have greater autonomy from the government and flexibility in areas such as resources deployment, curriculum design and admissions.

Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said if Wah Yan College – which boasts alumni including former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and current Secretary of the Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung – converted to the DSS, it would likely follow other prestigious schools in charging high fees.

Diocesan Boys’ School and St. Paul’s Co-educational College, both high-end schools that converted to the DSS, charge students HK$45,900 and HK$55,000 per year respectively for the Diploma of Secondary Education.

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“Such school fees would be a burden for those in the middle and working classes, lowering their chances of entering the school,” Ip said.

He criticised school for going against its vision of raising students to have “a universal heart, and contributing to the welfare and happiness of all, particularly the poor and the neglected”.

Ip said while the DSS policy was “attractive” to traditional prestigious schools, it also threatened to widen the gap between the rich and poor.

An Education Bureau spokeswoman said it had not received an application from Wah Yan College and schools wishing to participate in the scheme must first demonstrate their ability to provide quality education, as well as sound financial viability.

The bureau said it would consider how such a change would impact the supply and demand of student places, as well as the results of a consultation with relevant stakeholders.

There are currently 73 DSS schools in Hong Kong, including 52 secondary, 12 primary and 9 secondary-cum-primary.