LCQ21: School fees charged by kindergartens under the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme
The Government will implement the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme starting from the 2017-2018 school year. In that school year, (i) the Government will provide a subsidy of $33,190, $43,150 and $53,100 per student per annum (pspa) respectively for half-day (HD), whole-day (WD) and long whole-day (LWD) kindergartens (KGs); and (ii) the ceiling of school fees that HD KGs may collect from parents is set at $9,960 pspa (after deduction of government subsidies), and the relevant ceiling for WD and LWD KGs is $25,890 pspa. On the other hand, the Government will continue to implement the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme (KCFRS) to provide fee remission for families which have passed the means test. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the authorities will consider lowering the aforesaid school fee ceilings to alleviate the financial burden on the parents of students;
(2) of the respective numbers, as estimated by the authorities, of families eligible for 100 per cent fee remission under KCFRS which will need to pay KG school fees for their children studying in HD, WD and LWD KGs in the 2017-2018 school year, and the average amounts of school fees payable by such families; and
(3) whether the authorities will announce, as early as possible, the highest fee remission for the 2017-2018 school year under KCFRS?
Starting from the 2017/18 school year, the Education Bureau (EDB) will implement the free quality kindergarten (KG) education policy. The policy objectives are to provide good quality and highly affordable KG education, and enhance the accessibility of students to different modes of services that suit their specific needs. The Government's recurrent expenditure on pre-primary education is estimated to increase from about $4 billion in 2016-17 to about $6.7 billion in the 2017/18 school year.
With a substantial increase in the Government's commitment in KG education, the quality of KG education will be improved in various aspects, including providing direct subsidies to KGs joining the Free Quality KG Education Scheme; further improving the teacher-pupil ratio; strengthening the support for students' learning and development in different areas as well as catering for the needs of non-Chinese speaking students; creating a professional ladder for KG teachers' development and career advancement; releasing a new curriculum guide; stepping up quality assurance and refining the Performance Indicators; as well as enhancing parent engagement and parent education, etc.
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung is as follows:
(1) Under the new policy, the Government will substantially increase the subsidy to KGs. In principle, government subsidy should be sufficient for KGs to provide quality half-day (HD) services. Individual KGs may need to charge school fees, which are estimated to be at low level, for their HD programmes, mainly to defray expenses on rent that are not fully covered by rental subsidy. For whole-day (WD) or long WD (LWD) services, under the co-payment basis between the Government and parents, the additional subsidy provided by the Government for each WD place and LWD place would be set at 30 per cent and 60 per cent of the basic HD unit subsidy respectively, with the rest to be borne by parents. In the light of the additional subsidy provided by the Government, school fees should be at a low level.
When setting the school fee ceilings, we take into consideration various factors which include allowing more flexibility to cater for the special circumstances of individual KGs (including KGs operating in rented school premises) in light of the diversity and vibrancy of the KG sector. We have no plan to lower the school fee ceilings for the 2017/18 school year but will review and adjust such ceilings every year as appropriate. We expect that the school fees charged by the majority of KGs will be far below the ceilings. The EDB will rigorously vet KGs' applications for collection of school fees. Only reasonable expenditure will be recognised. KGs are hence required to provide strong justifications and supporting information (such as expenses on rent not fully covered by government subsidy). Currently, we are vetting the applications concerned. Based on the information provided by KGs approved to join the Free Quality KG Education Scheme, as at end-May 2017, it is estimated that about 80 per cent of them will provide free HD KG services in the 2017/18 school year. As for WD KGs, about 50 per cent of them are expected to charge school fees at or below $1,000 per month, which represents a significant increase when comparing with the current 5 per cent in the 2016/17 school year.
(2) It is expected that there will be 33 963 applications under the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme (KCFRS) in the 2017/18 school year. The amount of school fees payable after fee remission is subject to various factors, including the school fee levels approved by the EDB, parental choices, etc. As we are vetting KGs' applications for collection of school fees in the 2017/18 school year and KGs' admission of students for the 2017/18 school year is still in progress, the required information is not yet available.
(3) Based on past experience, under normal circumstances, fee remission ceilings for the new school year will be released at the website of the Student Finance Office in mid-September. In view of the substantial increase in resources to KGs with the implementation of the Free Quality KG Education Scheme in the 2017/18 school year, KGs planning to collect school fees must submit more detailed justifications and supporting information and the EDB will scrutinise the applications more rigorously. We will announce the fee remission ceilings for the 2017/18 school year as early as possible after processing all the applications for collection of school fees.
Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:05
Issued at HKT 13:05