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Hong Kong schools

After year of debate, top Hong Kong school to make self-funding switch despite concerns over excluding poorer students

Wah Yan College to apply to adopt direct subsidy scheme (DSS) model, which will allow it to charge fees and have more autonomy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 11:50am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 3:08pm

The sponsoring body of the prestigious Wah Yan College on Hong Kong Island has finally decided the institution will make the switch from a fully aided school to a direct subsidy scheme (DSS) school after a year of debate.

The Jesuit Education Board had reached a unanimous decision to submit an application to the Education Bureau to adopt the DSS funding mode in due course, board chairman Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan announced on Wednesday.

The elite Jesuit school, which was founded in 1919 and is currently funded and aided by the government, announced in February last year that it was considering joining the DSS programme, which allows schools to charge fees and have more autonomy.

The board said in March that times had changed, the school was facing some unique challenges and it was time to look into such a move. A nine-month consultation was conducted from April last year.

The announcement was met with conflicting opinions both within and outside the school and alumni community, with critics saying the change would go against the school’s vision of catering to both rich and poor.

Chow said the decision was made “after studying the different proposals throughout the entire duration and discerning the feedback received during the process and the results of a well-prepared survey conducted by the school”.

Introduced in 1991, the DSS scheme gives schools more freedom in management, use of resources and curriculum. They can admit their own pupils and collect fees in addition to government assistance. Because of this, DSS institutions have been seen by some as catering to rich parents who can afford the high fees.

Wah Yan College previously said the board had laid down some parameters on the possible transition to DSS, including keeping fees at HK$20,000 or less per year to avoid being seen as a school “exclusively for the rich and privileged”.

Diocesan Boys’ School and St Paul’s Co-educational College – both well-known DSS schools – charge students HK$45,900 and HK$55,000 per year respectively.

Illustrious Hong Kong school founded by Jesuits should remain free to all, rich or poor

Chow said: “It is now time to cast differences aside and move forward together, united in our mission to nurture young people in Hong Kong along the Jesuit vision of education.”

Lawmaker Charles Mok, who graduated Form Five in the school in 1981, said on Wednesday: “The most worrying issue is whether the switch will make students from poor families not try to apply to the school.”

Wah Yan had said that there would be financial aid for poor students, but it still needed to address concerns that such students might be deprived of a chance to go to good schools, he added.

The school previously said it expected the switch to take place next year at the soonest.

The board also runs Wah Yan College in Kowloon, which is funded and aided by the government.