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International schools

Hong Kong drops in survey of most expensive international schools

ExpatFinder.com reports that the median annual tuition cost in the city has dropped to US$18,465, but this reflects a far larger survey base rather than lower fees

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 7:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 11:27pm

A global survey of the cost of sending children to international schools shows that Hong Kong has dropped out of the top five, but it does not mean that fees have actually come down.

The international school fee survey by expatriate products and services website ExpatFinder.com polled 1,576 international schools across 117 countries and found Hong Kong ranked 10th, a drop from fifth place last year.

School fees increased 2 per cent globally and 7 per cent in Asia, it found.

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“The rising cost of international education is exacerbated by increased demand from wealthy or even middle-class families of emerging nations in Asia and the Middle East who want a grounding in international curricula – International Baccalaureate or an American High School Diploma – for their children,” CEO and ExpatFinder.com co-founder Sebastien Deschamps said.

In Hong Kong, the median annual cost of tuition was US$18,465. Last year, the annual cost was US$23,360. But the figures could not be compared because the sample size is larger this year.

Ruth Benny, founder of Hong Kong education consultancy Top Schools, was sceptical of the survey’s ranking and school fee average as she found tuition costs were increasing in the city.

“In Hong Kong, our fees are going up and up from 6 to 10 per cent per year,” she said.

“The newer schools are very much more expensive than what a lot of people can actually afford ... [They are] looking for the best teachers and best heads of school, so they’re offering the best [pay] packages and that pushes the market up.”

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A spokesman for ExpatFinder.com defended the survey, saying there were “multiple factors at play” that dropped Hong Kong down the rankings, such as a large sample size of schools.

“This year’s international school fees survey has more than doubled the number of schools evaluated from last year, and this has had quite an effect on the rankings,” he said.

“Also, some of the schools which we had data for last year have not participated this year, making direct comparisons tricky.”

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the problem of expat families finding school places for their children in Hong Kong remains because local families compete with expat children for places – even as more international schools are set up in the city.

“This is quite different from many other places where only expat children enrol in international schools,” Ip said.

“Because the demand is high, the tuition fee will also remain high.”

The survey also found some corporations directly sponsored international schools around the world in an effort to lower costs for expat parents. That trend, however, has not caught on in Hong Kong’s international schools. But some companies continue to sponsor expat student places in the city.