They promise everything a child could dream of for their school days, from gazing at the stars in a school observatory or basking in the footlights of a major musical to study trips abroad. Many also boast their own swimming pools - if they don't already have one, plans may be in the pipeline for one. Competition among Direct Subsidy Scheme schools and the extra resources and freedoms they enjoy seem to be working, at least in terms of encouraging them to enhance facilities and offer a plethora of extra activities to broaden a child's education. Many are using school fees to pay for additional teachers. Rita Hong Lo Chi-chun, principal of Po Leung Kuk Ngan Po Ling College in To Kwa Wan, said: 'Because of the larger number of teachers we can operate a dual class teacher system, with two teachers per class to take care of guidance and discipline.' The school also has split, smaller classes for languages. Elite schools such as Diocesan Girls' Schools have turned DSS to build on their traditions, and maintain links with their primary schools. 'We treasure the education that has been passed down to us but we need to add more,' said principal Stella Lau Kun Lai-kuen. 'We are looking for different external exposure for our children.' For DGS, this ranges from girls being inspired by visiting university professors to participating in a major musical, such as DGS Girl performed last weekend. In recruiting extra teachers, Diocesan Boys' School has cut class sizes to 30 at primary and 38 at secondary - in the past there were as many as 45. But principal Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung said they would not be cut further, because the school preferred to invest in more extra activities and staff development. DBS is among schools striving for a more international outlook. While it is considering offering the IB Diploma, Tsung Tsin Christian Academy plans to offer SAT and TOEFL exams for US university entry, and British GCSEs in science and maths, as well as study trips to Australia, the US or England. 'As a DSS school we have a more conducive environment for quality education,' said principal Joshua Yau Chung-wan. DSS schools do not necessarily offer a radically different style of learning, although Betty Ip Tsang Chun-hing, principal assistant secretary for education, said: 'To a certain extent some are leading a new culture of teaching and learning.' Examples included HKUGA Primary School, which has twinned with a school in Canada for virtual learning. She said market forces were a key part of the DSS, with schools in the scheme monitored more by parents and students than by government. 'The pledges have to be delivered otherwise parents will lodge their complaints, reflect their dissatisfaction or choose other schools.' There was some government monitoring. DSS schools underwent comprehensive reviews every five years for their service agreements with the Education and Manpower Bureau to be renewed, she said. The reviews were similar to quality assurance inspections for aided schools. One criteria for for becoming DSS was that the schools should promote transparency and include parents, teachers and alumni in their management, she added. As the number of Hong Kong children declines, many aided schools face under-enrolment, and threat of closure. But according to Ms Ip, most DSS schools are over-subscribed - an indicator of their success.