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LCQ1: Fees of kindergartens

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Chan Mo-po and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (November 3):


     Although the fees of kindergartens and child care centres are regulated under the Education Regulations and the Child Care Services Regulations, it has been reported that recently, a kindergarten had organised various interest classes and catechism classes in the name of a third party and collected fees from students who attended those classes.  The catechism classes were allegedly organised by students' parents on their own initiative.  Yet, the fees collected had gone into the account of a limited company, the directors of which are the principal and supervisors of the kindergarten.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government has assessed if the practice of the kindergarten referred to in those reports is regulated under the Education Regulations and the Child Care Services Regulations and if such practice is appropriate; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the reasons for that; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, what follow-up actions will be taken by the Government;

(b) whether the Government will review the Education Regulations and the Child Care Services Regulations so as to eradicate the aforesaid practice of kindergartens; if it will, when and in what way the review will be conducted; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(c) of the number of complaints received by the Government in the past three years which involved kindergartens charging fees in a similar manner, as well as the number of complaints involving kindergartens suspected to have contravened the Education Regulations and the Child Care Services Regulations and their contents; among such complaints, of the respective number of cases on which investigation was conducted, which were substantiated, for which prosecutions were instituted and the persons involved were convicted and, in respect of the convicted cases, the names of the kindergartens or child care centres involved and the penalties imposed?


     My reply to the three-part question raised by the Hon Chan regarding the fees of kindergartens is as follows:

(a) First of all, the Education Bureau (EDB) does not allow schools to charge in a dishonest or improper way any fees from parents or students for services or activities.  Any such act will be dealt with seriously.

     I suppose that the case referred to in the question is the one involving the York English & Chinese Kindergarten, which has attracted wide coverage in the media.  Upon receipt of enquiries from the media, the EDB immediately followed up the case with the operator of the kindergarten concerned.  On September 29, 2010, the EDB telephoned the kindergarten to enquire about the matter.  The kindergarten explained that the activities concerned were catechism activities organised by a small number of parents on their own initiative.  This parent group had requested the kindergarten to provide the venue and administrative support, and would arrange for some experienced instructors trained in divinity to teach catechism to parents. The fees paid by the participating parents, after deducting the instructors' fees and administrative expenses, would be contributed to the church. According to the kindergarten's notice to parents subsequently submitted to the EDB, the kindergarten had contacted the local Catholic Church and held a briefing session, and the catechism classes would be held in one of the kindergarten premises.  However, the kindergarten later clarified to the EDB that catechism and Sunday school classes of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong should be approved by the parish concerned and should be free of charge.  In view of this, the kindergarten had requested the parent group to return all cheques to parents.  

     Meanwhile, having found that the cheque payee was a limited company, the EDB sent a letter to the kindergarten on October 5, requiring it to provide in writing further information on the catechism classes, including the relationship between the kindergarten and the cheque payee.  In its reply, the kindergarten stated that as requested by parents, an independent private limited company, i.e. the cheque payee, had been commissioned to collect and provisionally keep the cheques submitted by parents who intended to join the catechism classes.  The kindergarten reiterated in the reply that it was not involved in the acceptance of payment.  However, the kindergarten did not explain its relationship with the cheque payee, i.e. the company.  After checking with the Companies Registry, the EDB found that the directors of the company were the principal and the supervisor of the kindergarten and the registered address of the company was the same as one of the kindergarten premises.  In consideration of the above information and the fact that the kindergarten's reply failed to clear up our doubts, the EDB wrote again to the kindergarten, demanding clarification on the relationship between the kindergarten and the company, information about the parents who organised the classes, explanation for the payment collection arrangements, and confirmation as to whether parents were informed of the relationship between the kindergarten and the company.  Meanwhile, the EDB is also seeking legal advice.  If the arrangements are found to contravene the laws of Hong Kong, the EDB will follow up the matter and consider legal action.

     Since we are still collecting necessary information and awaiting legal advice, we are not in a position to say whether the practice of the kindergarten is appropriate or not at this stage.

(b) We consider that the operation of registered schools is properly and effectively regulated under the existing Education Ordinance and Education Regulations, and no review of the legislation is required.

(c) According to its records, from 2007/08 to 2009/10 school years, the EDB received a total of seven complaints against kindergartens which were suspected to have contravened the fees provisions of the Education Regulations, involving mainly the arrangement of fee refunds or the use of fees, etc.  The EDB conducted follow-up investigations and requested the kindergartens concerned to rectify the situation in accordance with the relevant guidelines.  Since the complaints only involved minor irregularities, no prosecution was instituted.

Ends/Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:30


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