HKD $200m to Save Jobs at International Schools

International and private schools in Hong Kong have benefited from more than HKD 200 million in the first round of the government’s wage subsidy scheme; the English Schools Foundation was the highest beneficiary with a grant of more than HKD 71 million.
HKD $200m to Save Jobs at International Schools
By Carli Allan
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International and private schools in Hong Kong have received more than HKD 200 million to help save teacher and staff jobs, as part of the government’s Covid-19 relief package. The government’s HKD 81 billion Employment Support Scheme offers a monthly subsidy to cover up to 50% of employees’ wages. More than 70 private primary and secondary schools, including 42 international schools, benefited from the scheme in its first round of subsidies from June to August 2020.

The English Schools Foundation, which is Hong Kong’s largest provider of international education and has 22 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, received the highest payout of more than HKD 71 million. Many other international schools received subsidies ranging from HKD 42,000 to HKD 14 million, which is an average of HKD 25,000 per school employee over the three-month period.

The scheme was open to all non-government organisations. To qualify for the subsidy, which is capped at HKD 9,000 per employee, a company must be largely self-financing, employers must pledge not to make any redundancies during the three months, and subsidies must be spent on paying wages. A second phase of the scheme, running from September to November, will open for applications tomorrow (August 31).

Schools in Hong Kong’s private sector have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. All campuses were closed at the end of January and classes switched to distance learning; they reopened from late May with strict social distancing measures in place. However, campuses were then closed again in late July after a spike in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases; international schools have started the new 2020-21 academic year with distance learning, and there will be a phased reopening of all schools from September 23.

In support of its private education sector, government relief has not discriminated against international schools. In April, the Education Bureau awarded all private and international schools a one-off government relief grant of HKD 80,000, and most recently it has invited schools to apply for funding from the Employment Support Scheme to help avoid redundancies.

Any financial relief for parents?

While schools have been offered financial aid of varying amounts from the government, what has been done to provide relief for Hong Kong families who may have been hit by pay cuts or job losses in the Covid-19 financial fallout?

The Education Bureau (EDB) offered a one-off grant of HKD 3,500 to help pay for school expenses in the 2019-20 academic year to all students in kindergarten, primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong. For additional relief, parents have turned to their child's school.

While schools in Hong Kong have been closed for the start of the new academic year, they are not offering any discounted fees for the period of distance learning. The majority of schools are still charging full tuition fees, although many have frozen their fees for the 2020-21 academic year.

Some schools have offered fee discounts in recent months and introduced financial assistance schemes for students who need help. For example, ESF announced a 45% reduction for June’s tuition fees; Invictus International School offered unemployed parents affected by Covid-19 a free education for the rest of 2019-20 academic year; and Nord Anglia International School, Hong Kong discounted its 2019 Term 3 fees by 12%. Many schools have waived their application and assessment fees for new students.

Subsidies for international schools, June-August

School group Wage subsidy, June - August 2020 Headcount under payroll
English Schools Foundation 71,038,167 2,954
Hong Kong International School 14,020,875 528
Yew Cheung International School 13,842,384 575
Independent Schools Foundation 12,140,553 448
Chinese International School Foundation 9,740,736 370
French International School 9,134,163 415
Canadian International School  7,979,373 295
Kellett School 7,138,440 275
German Swiss International School 5,908,137 231
Singapore International School 5,702,001 249
Discovery Bay International School 5,686,743 269
Harrow International School 5,605,941 218
Christian Alliance International School 5,164,086 209
International Christian School 5,129,910 215
Nord Anglia International School 4,697,634 178
Australian International School 4,484,115 174
Korean International School 3,520,500 126
Carmel School 3,213,399 130
Kingston International School 2,642,859 104
American International School 2,473,161 96
Shrewsbury International School 1,900,545 73
Japanese International School 1,207,410 49
Harbour School 1,165,500 44
Norwegian International School 1,050,459 45
Dalton School 699,600 27
Concordia International School 442,680 18
Invictus International School (Hong Kong) 315,000 12
Malvern College Hong Kong 270,000 9
California School 42,000 2


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