Withdrawal of the government subsidy from the English Schools Foundation could force some expatriate families out of Hong Kong and affect the calibre of students the ESF attracts, parents of current pupils said yesterday.
They expressed their concerns to foundation representatives at a closed-door meeting, even though their children will not be directly affected.
The long-frozen HK$283 million annual subsidy will be withdrawn for new students in 2016 and is expected to lead to a 23 per cent rise in fees. The subsidy will apply to present students throughout their education, which can last up to 13 years, from primary until graduation from secondary school.
"New students will have fewer choices," said a Mr Yau, whose child in an ESF kindergarten will be one of the last to benefit.
Cassie Jullienne, who has three children studying at ESF primary school Bradbury, said the rising fees would make it hard for expatriate families without high-paying jobs. She added: "It's a shame. Some won't be able to relocate [to Hong Kong], and some might have to relocate back to their home countries."
More than 30 parents turned up at Beacon Hill School to hear ESF representatives, including chief executive Heather Du Quesnay, explain the deal.
Yau expressed concern about the development of the schools.
"They may lose good-quality students [because their families cannot afford the fees]," he said, "which might in turn affect the standard of the schools, alumni networks and connections."
The foundation, with 20 schools and kindergartens, announced last week it had accepted the proposal in principle. It will make a final decision after hearing parents' views.
Jullienne said that if Hong Kong wanted to maintain its status as a global city, the government would have to consider supporting families who needed English-medium schools.