The Office of the Ombudsman is launching an investigation into the Education Bureau’s approval mechanism and administrative procedures after data showed that some kindergartens are overcharging parents of schoolchildren for application fees, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
It was learned that the fees are capped at HK$40 but kindergartens may charge more with the bureau’s approval.
The probe seeks to improve the bureau’s procedures in approving such overcharges.
At least 44 kindergartens charged more than the ceiling for application fees during the 2015/16 school year following approval from the education bureau, the data showed.
The German Swiss International School kindergarten, located on Pok Fu Lam Road, charged as much as HK$3,700 for application fee for each child, or more than 90 times the ceiling, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The school also charged another HK$4,300 for each child qualified to take an entrance test.
Other schools that charged application fees above the ceiling included the Canadian International School of Hong Kong, which charged HK$2,350, and the Hong Kong Academy, at HK$3,100, according to the newspaper.
Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said it would be very unfair for parents to pay such high application fees when they are not refundable whether their children get admitted or not, news website hk01.com reported.
Lau said her office would take the initiative to launch an investigation, adding that the focus will be on the bureau’s criteria and procedures for approving fees that exceed the ceiling.
The system of collecting application fees by kindergartens will also be monitored before suggestions for improvement are made, she said.
The Office of the Ombudsman called on parents of schoolchildren, relevant organizations and individuals, as well as educational institutions to provide data or their views in written form by June 13.
Legislator Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education functional constituency, welcomed the probe, and said the bureau owes the public an explanation.
He said there is no reason to charge very high application fees as they are only meant to the kindergartens’ administrative expenses.
The bureau said it will cooperate with the Ombudsman’s probe as it welcomes public views on the issue before it reviews its procedures accordingly.
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