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Supervision of international schools

LEGCO QUESTION No. 8(WRITTEN REPLY)


Date of Meeting: 21 November 2001



Asked by : Dr. Hon David CHU

Replied by : SEM

Question :

The Canadian Overseas International College closed down on 28th last month due to financial problems. It was reported that about 380 students were affected, involving prepaid tuition fees totalling $10 million. With regard to the Education Department's ("ED") supervision of schools, will the Government inform this Council:

  1. whether, before the closure of the College, the ED was aware that the College was facing financial or operational difficulties; if so, of the follow-up measures taken by the ED; if not, whether it has assessed if the sudden closure of the College is a reflection of inadequate supervision by ED, or the existence of loopholes in the supervisory mechanism; and

  2. of the ED's criteria for granting permission for the College and other schools to collect tuition fees on a prepaid basis, rather than on a monthly basis as prescribed by the legislation, and the current number of schools permitted to collect tuition fee on a prepaid basis, together with a breakdown by the type of such schools?


Reply:

Madam President,

a. The Education Department (ED) was not aware that the Canadian Overseas International College had any financial or operational difficulties before its closure. The supervisor of the College informed ED verbally on 26 October 2001 afternoon his intention to close down the College due to financial difficulties. On 28 October afternoon, ED received a written notice from the supervisor that the school would cease operation starting from 29 October 2001.

The Canadian Overseas International College was a private school. As far as regulatory control of private schools is concerned, ED recognizes that these schools should be allowed flexibility to operate in the free market. However, to protect students and parents, ED would ensure that private schools comply with the Education Ordinance (Cap. 279), including compliance in the following areas-

  1. safety, e.g. building and fire safety requirements;

  2. teachers' qualifications, e.g. teachers have to meet prescribed qualifications and register with ED; and

  3. charging of fees, e.g. school fees have to be approved by ED.

To provide more information for parents to select private schools, ED has already uploaded information on approved school fees (including fees of private schools) on its homepage. The Department will also work with the Consumer Council to make public the names of schools which contravene the Education Ordinance.

b.

Under the Education Regulations, unless otherwise permitted in writing by the Director of Education, the inclusive fees for an educational course shall be calculated on an equal monthly basis and collected on or after the first school day of each month of the period during which the educational course is conducted. In considering applications from schools to be exempted from the requirement of collecting school fees in equal monthly instalments, ED mainly takes into account the following -

  1. the organization running the course (to qualify for exemption, the school must be operated by a non-profit-making body);

  2. the special characteristics of the course; and

  3. the wish and needs of students/parents.

At present, there are a total of 56 schools which have been exempted from the requirement of collecting school fees in equal monthly instalments. Of these 56 schools, 19 are international schools and the remaining are adult education institutions.

ED exempted the 19 international schools mentioned above from the requirement of collecting school fees in equal monthly instalments under the Education Regulations mainly to address parents' needs (e.g. it might cause inconvenience to expatriate parents who had to travel abroad frequently if school fees were collected monthly). ED has reviewed the arrangements. Starting from the 2002/03 school year, unless the schools could provide sound justifications and demonstrate that there is a genuine need, all the 19 international schools mentioned above have to collect school fees in equal monthly instalments.

Last revision date: 21 November 2001
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