Nearly 300 Hong Kong subsidised kindergartens increase fees for full-day classes amid ‘rising costs’
At least 14 schools more than doubled their fees for full-day pupils while others required parents to fork out HK$4,000 and above for half-day classes
More than 20 Hong Kong kindergartens that provided free full-day programmes last year under an ongoing subsidy scheme will now charge parents between HK$720 and HK$8,580 annually.
They are among 294 kindergartens allowed to increase fees for full-day classes this school year, according to information released recently by the Education Bureau.
At least 14 kindergartens are charging more than HK$20,000 annually for full-day classes – which typically last for eight hours or more – with one going as high as HK$26,246.
The raises came amid claims by the schools that the government subsidy was not enough to cover rising costs, with the bureau approving cases based on “operating conditions” of the kindergartens.
For the 2018-2019 school year, Yaumatei Yang Memorial Methodist Pre-school is among those charging annual tuition fees for full-day classes, pegging the amount at HK$5,268.
A spokeswoman for the school explained it also tried to apply last year for annual fees of about HK$5,000 to HK$6,000 for full-day classes, but the bureau did not approve and wanted it to be free.
She said the government subsidies were not enough as the school hired more teachers and “some of our teachers are very experienced,” she said.
“Thankfully there was a one-off start-up grant of between HK$200,000 and HK$300,000, so we barely managed to pull through with [operational costs] such as renovation.”
The spokeswoman said it still tried to keep the fee this year affordable for parents.
A government scheme started last year provides hefty subsidies for about 740 kindergartens so many parents do not need to stump up tuition fees for their children, only paying small amounts for meals or other miscellaneous activities.
The plan, which is still in effect, provides kindergartens with annual subsidies of HK$34,320 per pupil for half-day classes, and HK$44,620 to HK$54,910 for full-day courses. Under the policy, all kindergartens operating on private sites will also receive subsidies equivalent to half the market rent. Before this, parents only received a voucher of HK$23,230 per child to cover fees.
The subsidies raised the overall government budget for kindergartens to HK$6.7 billion in the 2017-2018 school year.
Among schools increasing fees this year, at least 14 subsidised kindergartens more than doubled their annual fees for full-day pupils while at least 10 required parents to fork out HK$4,000 and above for half-day classes, with one going up to HK$10,100.
This came despite the bureau saying the subsidy should in principle be sufficient for kindergartens offering half-day services.
Despite the fee increases, a bureau spokeswoman noted about 90 per cent of half-day kindergartens classes remained free, while the overall fees for full-day classes were still considered low.
“When approving the application for tuition fees, we mainly consider the overall financial and actual operating conditions of the kindergarten, including salary adjustment, teacher-student ratio, and maintenance and improvement of school facilities,” she said.
Eiffel Chau King-lun, convenor of Hong Kong Parents League for Education Renovation, noted some of the fee raises were not small, which could be a burden for parents.
“There’s a need for schools to have a forecast on fee increases for parents,” he said. “While some of the raises may not be that high this year, if they continue rising, it will go beyond parents’ estimations.”
Chau, who has two children in kindergarten, added there was a need for more subsidies for full-day classes, as these were in high demand because many families have parents that were both working.