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About 30 out of 500 Hong Kong kindergartens offering half-day programmes are still charging fees despite being part of a recently implemented free school scheme.
In eight of these kindergartens, parents are forking out HK$4,000 or more a year for their children’s courses. Two schools are even asking for higher fees than the previous year.
The kindergartens are part of a scheme announced by then chief executive Leung Chun-ying in his policy address in January last year. The plan provides kindergartens with annual subsidies of HK$33,190 per pupil for half-day classes, and HK$43,150 to HK$53,100 for full-day courses. A total of about 740 schools are now part of the scheme.
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 scheme – which would increase the government’s budget for kindergartens by more than 60 per cent to HK$6.7 billion – was for kindergartens to provide free and high quality half-day services.
But tuition fees released by the Education Bureau last week showed that about 30 kindergartens offering half-day courses were still charging parents, with at least eight asking for fees starting from HK$4,000.
Parents with children at Cannan Kindergarten on Waterloo Road in Kowloon City have to fork out HK$9,473 a year.
Meanwhile, Po Leung Kuk Eleanor Kwok Law Kwai Chun Kindergarten in Yuen Long, which did not charge pupils tuition fees last year, is now asking for HK$1,680 a year.
Similarly, parents with children in Nam Ying Kindergarten in Peng Chau, which also waived fees last year, are now paying HK$1,169 a year.
A Po Leung Kuk spokeswoman said the fees had been approved by the bureau, which recognised the school’s need for long-term development.
She added that parents who attended an August briefing on the fee adjustment had said that they understood the change.
Nam Ying Kindergarten has not responded to inquiries at press time.
“If the government subsidy is enough to offset the expenses of the kindergarten, the school should not charge fees,” a bureau spokeswoman said.
“When we review applications, the focus is on whether the expenditure items are reasonable and relevant.”
For full-day programmes, the Post found at least nine kindergartens charging annual rates of HK$20,000 and above.
Despite a 28.6 per cent drop in fees compared with the previous year, parents with children in full-day courses in the local stream for William (Smart) Kindergarten are still paying HK$25,890.
“The government subsidy is only enough to cover a third of our rent,” a spokeswoman for the Kowloon City school said.