A Hong Kong government-constituted panel is said to be preparing to submit a final report to the city’s Education Bureau, recommending that a new policy on free kindergarten education should take effect from the 2017 school year, Ming Pao Daily News reported Tuesday.
Under the suggestions put forward by the Committee on Free Kindergarten Education, school fees will be waived at all not-for-profit half-day kindergartens.
However, full-day kindergartens might still need to levy school fees to cover their expenses as they will only receive the same amount of subsidy as their half-day counterparts, the report said.
Students going to full-day kindergartens will be able to receive school fees subsidy as long as they meet certain family income requirements.
Kindergarten education bodies pointed out that full-day kindergartens not only offer day-care services to working parents, they also provide more hours of learning and teaching. Therefore, the government should consider full subsidies for them also, they said.
At present, there are nearly 1,000 kindergartens in Hong Kong, with around 700 of them being not-for-profit and eligible for the School Vouchers Scheme, which helps parents settle a substantial portion of the school fees.
Under the new free education policy, the government’s subsidy will directly go to the not-for-profit kindergartens, while private kindergartens will remain unsubsidized.
Members of the pre-school education sector said both half-day and full-day kindergartens should receive full subsidy, and that full-day ones should be given even more resources in view of their relatively higher cost of operation.
Tricia Wong, associate professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education’s Early Childhood Education Department, said three hours of class time for pre-schoolers are considered sufficient, while full-day programs can benefit the children’s social and self-care abilities.
There are many parents who would rather enroll their children in full-day kindergartens, even if it means they have to pay a fee, as it would lessen their pressure on looking after their children, the report noted.
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