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LCQ1: Kindergarten education

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (April 17):


     The deadline for the Education Bureau to accept applications for tuition fee revision for kindergartens for the 2013-2014 school year expired in early March this year.  It has been reported earlier in the press that, in the face of pressure from cost hikes including rents and teacher salaries, etc., the rates of increase in kindergarten tuition fees applied for this year range from about 5 per cent to 10 per cent; and the situation is particularly severe in the North District, where almost 30 per cent of the 41 kindergartens participating in the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) intend to raise their tuition fees, with the highest rate of increase reaching 10 per cent. Some parents from the North District have relayed that they face heavy financial burden because the voucher value has remained at the level of $16,800 per student per annum without adjustment.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) apart from the report on the review of PEVS submitted by the Education Commission in 2010, whether the Government has reviewed the scheme since its launch in the 2007/2008 school year; whether it will adjust the voucher value in response to changes in the economic conditions; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(b) in addition to PEVS, whether the Government has formulated policies to help parents cope with the expense hikes of early childhood education, and whether it has considered providing more assistance to the early childhood education sector in resolving their difficulties in operating the business?



(a) Since its introduction in the 2007/08 school year, the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) has been under ongoing review for its effectiveness by the Education Bureau (EDB) with a view to rolling out timely enhancement measures. As part of this effort, a Working Group under the Education Commission completed a comprehensive review of the PEVS in 2010 and put forth recommendations to enhance the PEVS.  Major enhancement measures implemented by the EDB after the reviews are set out as follows:

- To ensure that a reasonable choice of eligible and affordable kindergartens (KGs) for needy families is available under the PEVS, starting from the 2009/10 school year, the Government has reinstated an annual adjustment mechanism for the fee remission ceilings under the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme (KCFRS) on the basis of the weighted average fees of non-profit-making half-day and whole-day KGs under the PEVS;

- To further tie in with the implementation of the PEVS, with effect from the 2011/12 school year, the KCFRS has been modified to provide enhanced assistance in KG education to needy families, which includes:

     * Revising the calculation of fee remission under the KCFRS to provide additional financial support to needy families on top of the voucher value (i.e. the amount of voucher subsidy);

     * Removing the social needs assessment for eligibility for whole-day rate of fee remission; and

     * Adjusting annually the meal allowance ceiling for needy KG children attending whole-day PEVS KGs in accordance with the Consumer Price Index (A);

-  Starting from the 2012/13 school year, the voucher subsidy has been disbursed according to the tuition fee payment schedule of KGs so as to reduce their difficulties in handling administrative and accounting work; and

-  Starting from the 2012/13 school year, the fee thresholds of PEVS KGs and the amount of voucher subsidy have been adjusted annually in accordance with the Composite Consumer Price Index (CCPI).

     As mentioned above, the EDB has adjusted the amount of voucher subsidy starting from this school year according to the year-on-year rate of change in the CCPI. After adjustment, the amount of voucher subsidy in the 2012/13 school year is $16,800 per student per annum, and it will further increase to $17,510 per student per annum in the 2013/14 school year.

(b) At present, apart from the voucher subsidy, needy families may obtain additional assistance under the KCFRS to cover the part of the tuition fees which is in excess of the voucher value.  The actual fee remission will be 50%, 75% or 100% of the difference between the actual fee charged by KGs or the fee remission ceiling, whichever is the less, and the amount of voucher subsidy.  As mentioned in paragraph (a), the Government has introduced various enhancement measures to the KCFRS in order to provide more appropriate support to families in need.

     To help all PEVS KGs improve their teaching and learning resources and facilities, the EDB plans to provide them with a one-off grant for carrying out improvement works, and procuring furniture and learning resources with a view to enhancing teaching and learning effectiveness. Subject to the approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, we will disburse the grant to all eligible KGs in the 2013/14 school year.

     Providing practicable 15-year free education and better quality KG education is one of the priorities of the current-term Government. In this regard, a committee was set up in April this year to study how to take forward free KG education in a practicable manner and make concrete recommendations to the EDB. The current estimate is that the committee will take two years to complete its work. In the meantime, the committee will explore short- and medium-term measures to help the KG sector meet their existing challenges. The Government will actively consider providing support in this regard.

Ends/Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:45


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