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[Archive] Protection of the interests of students in private sector schools

LEGCO QUESTION No. 20(WRITTEN REPLY)

 

Date of Meeting: 31 October 2001



Asked by : Ir Dr Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai

Replied by : SEM

Question :

A private matriculation school which had operated for only two months suddenly closed down at the beginning of this month, resulting in quite a number of students suffering financial losses. Regarding the protection of the interests of students in private sector schools, will the Government inform this Council of :

  1. the number of private sector schools which suddenly closed down in the past three years, and the total number of relevant complaints received;

  2. the legal channels through which the affected students may recover the tuition fees already paid; and

  3. the mechanism in place for monitoring the financial situation of private sector schools?


Reply:

Madam President,

According to the records of the Education Department (ED), the private matriculation school which suddenly closed down at the beginning of this month due to financial difficulties had been in operation for more than two months. The school registered with ED in 1984 mainly for running of commercial courses. In June this year, the school changed its name to a "matriculation college" to better reflect its operation of matriculation courses.
a. In the past three school years, there was only one case of private school suddenly ceasing operation due to financial difficulties. A total of 159 complaints from students were received by ED and the Consumer Council arising from the closure of this school.
b. If a school ceases operation, ED will work closely with the Consumer Council to request the school concerned to refund collected school fees. The Consumer Council will assist students affected through the Small Claims Tribunal if there is a need to recover the fees through the legal channel. Regarding the school which suddenly ceased operation at the beginning of this month, it has, at ED's request, refunded school fees for the October instalment and the public examination entrance fees collected.
c. Private school operators are required to register under the Education Ordinance. In addition, they have to apply for the business registration and are subject to provisions under the Companies Ordinance and the Inland Revenue Ordinance. As far as regulation of registered private schools is concerned, the main focus of ED is to ensure that schools will comply with the requirements (safety of school premises, teachers' qualifications and collection of fees) stipulated in the Education Ordinance. If necessary, officers of the Department may, under the Education Ordinance, require schools to produce school accounts and relevant vouchers for inspection.