My Take

The wealth gap widens in Hong Kong education

As fees for international schools continue to rise, there are not many other options for parents who believe competitive local schools are not for their children

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 10:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

I recently took my kids out of an international school after almost a decade. The reason is simple: I can’t afford their school fees anymore.

The school raises tuition practically every year. The latest hike amounts to 4.5 per cent, taking tuition to HK$206,500 a year per student. And I have two children. That kind of money is simply unaffordable for someone on a reporter’s salary, or anyone who is solidly in the middle class.

I suppose I could try the English Schools Foundation, which has very long queues. In any case, the government is phasing out subsidies so its school charges are comparable to those at international schools for new parents.

Do I regret taking my children out of the school? Well, I made a little bit of money selling their debenture, which I bought early on.

It’s a good school with a sound education programme based on the International Baccalaureate. But is it value for money? Well, who knows?

If local public schools had offered what my wife and I wanted for our kids, we would never have bothered with international schools. Everyone seems to have bad things to say about public schools.

The fact remains that most local schools are very tough and competitive academically. They are clearly not for everyone.

I believe, though, that the majority of local parents actually want them to be tough and competitive, so that their children may become the same. I have no quarrel with such tiger parents if that’s what they want. It’s just that this style of schooling is not for my family. Most of those who complain about our public system are those who have rejected this type of education.

But the problem for them – or people like my wife and I – is that there aren’t too many alternatives other than paying HK$206,500 a year, not to mention those million-dollar debentures. Despite the great variety of schools – local, aided, private, international etc – they are economically divided into those that are relatively cheap and those you can’t afford.

By leaving international schools essentially unregulated, the government has helped widen the wealth gap at the root of education while leaving liberal-minded families out in the cold.