Children receive poor pre-school education under a subsidy scheme which discourages schools from hiring well-trained teachers, education groups claimed yesterday. The Professional Teachers' Union and kindergarten groups urged Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to announce an expanded scheme in his maiden policy address next month. Union president, the ousted legislator Cheung Man-kwong, demanded direct subsidies for teachers instead of for students. 'The existing subsidy of $880 per student is far from enough,' he said. 'It is also unfair that no matter how many trained teachers a school employs, the grant is the same. 'This only discourages schools from hiring more trained teachers and students are the victims.' The Education Department started the scheme two years ago to help non-profit kindergartens which charge annual fees of no more than $13,200 per pupil. Forty per cent of teachers must be trained. But there is no stipulation about training - it can be anything from 16 weeks' to two years' duration. More than 7,000 teachers work in Hong Kong's 700 kindergartens, which cater for about 200,000 children aged three to six. Ada Mak Tse How-ling, head of St Monica's Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten, said some schools preferred hiring untrained or half-trained teachers to cut costs. 'No matter how many good teachers they employ, the amount of subsidy will be the same,' she said. The Professional Teachers' Union has recommended the Government start pay half of teachers' salaries, before absorbing 75 per cent and finally 100 per cent of the cost.