Tuition fees have increased by nearly 5 percent at international schools across Hong Kong for the 2018-19 academic year. As reported in the South China Morning Post, figures from the Education Bureau (EDB) reveal that the average fee increment at international schools was 4.67% – and all increases were kept to a maximum of 10%.
As of the end of August, the EDB had received applications for fee increases from 68 international schools for the year ahead, including the 15 English Schools Foundation (ESF) schools. Currently, there are around 80 international schools in Hong Kong.
All international, Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and private schools must apply to the EDB for the approval of any adjustment to tuition fees. The average fee increment for Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools, which are government-funded and can charge fees, were a higher figure of 5.94%; there was an average 5.71% increase at private schools, which are part of the private school sector but receive government assistance.
For the first time in four years, the EDB rejected bids by three private and three international schools to raise their tuition fees; it also capped all increases at 20%. This suggests that the EDB is responding to an ongoing investigation by the Hong Kong Office of the Ombudsman into its criteria and procedures for approving fee increases.
Speaking in June, Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said that “the bureau’s approval mechanism is lax and lacks transparency”. The EDB says:
“When dealing with the application for adjustment of tuition fees by private schools and international schools, the EDB will carefully consider the rationale and financial situation of the schools and require schools to fully communicate with parents on the application for adjustment of tuition fees and properly respond to their concerns.”
The EDB approved an increase in annual tuition fees at English Schools Foundation (ESF) of an average of 4.8%. The ESF runs five kindergartens, nine primary schools, five secondary schools, two Private Independent Schools and a school for children with SEN. All ESF schools have the same fee structure, and they have always had a reputation for being considerably cheaper than most international schools in Hong Kong.
Tuition fees in Years 1 and 2 at ESF’s primary schools, including Kowloon Junior, Beacon Hill and Sha Tin Junior, have risen from HKD 106,500 to HKD 111,200; Year 3 increase by HKD 22,000 from HKD 89,200 to HKD 111,200; and Years 4 to 6 went up from HKD 89,200 to 93,900. At secondary schools such as King George V and Island School, the fees for Years 7 to 11 increased from HKD 122,900 to HKD 128,400; families of students studying the IBDP in Years 12 and 13 are paying an extra HKD 5,900 as fees rise to HKD 135,000.
At other international schools, the approved increases vary. For example, fees for Year 1 have risen by 3% from HKD 163,500 to 168,500 at ASHK; by 3.9% from HKD 179,700 to HKD 186,700 at Hong Kong Academy; by 6.4% from HKD 193,200 to HKD 205,500 at Chinese International School; and by 7.4% from HKD 153,000 to HKD 164,400 at Kellett School.
The cost of an education at any of Hong Kong’s international schools cannot be judged by its tuition fees alone, though. Most schools charge an annual non-refundable capital levy per student. These can range from HKD 7,120 at Discovery College and HKD 10,000 at Singapore International School to as much as HKD 60,000 at Harrow International School.