Schools breaking the rules on fees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 5:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 5:40am

Five prestigious international schools are violating government regulations by charging fees for applying to their kindergarten sections that are far above the HK$30 limit, the South China Morning Post has discovered.

The French International School, the German-Swiss International School, Harrow International School Hong Kong, the International Montessori School and the American International School all charge application fees of between HK$500 and HK$3,700, in breach of the education regulations.

An Education Bureau circular issued in 2005 said fees of more than HK$30 must be approved by the bureau. A breach of the regulations carries a fine of up to HK$250,000 and a year in prison.

The Post researched fees at international schools after reports in October that the German-Swiss school was charging HK$3,700 for applications for its kindergarten in Pok Fu Lam. It found the school was still charging that fee - more than 100 times the limit - without permission.

The French International School was charging HK$500 for applications for its Sheung Wan kindergarten, while Harrow International School in Tuen Mun charged HK$1,500 and the International Montessori School was charging HK$2,000 for its kindergarten in Mid-Levels.

The American International School in Kowloon Tong had been given permission to charge HK$1,000 and had asked for HK$1,500, but was charging the higher fee already.

However, the Education Bureau said it had no statistics on prosecution, adding that would not be its first option. "Law enforcement is not the first step. We normally ask the concerned school to rectify the situation first," a spokeswoman said.

She said the French and German-Swiss schools had been reminded they needed permission for higher fees, and that requests from other schools were still being processed.

"The bureau will process applications for revision of application fees, taking into account the justification put forward by the kindergartens," she added.

But education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen urged the bureau to enforce the law.

"It's unfair to kindergartens that obey the law. Reminders are OK for the first offence, but allowing … preschools to violate the same regulation again and again without charging anyone would give the impression that the bureau is a paper tiger."

Several international schools have been given permission to charge higher fees, including the Kellett School, which charges HK$2,000, Singapore International School, HK$3,000, and the Canadian International School, which charges HK$2,350 for initial processing and a fee of HK$1,650 from selected applicants for assessment tests. A spokeswoman for the French school said it was "constantly working" with the Education Bureau, while Harrow said it was awaiting permission for higher fees.

The International Montessori School's co-founder Karin Ann said its application fees were "in line with other international schools".

The German-Swiss and the American International School did not respond to Post inquiries.