HK$2.6b extra for pre-school education

Updated: 2016-01-15 09:24

By Joseph Li in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Kindergartens to be enhanced by bigger salaries as well as subsidies

The recurrent government expenditure for kindergarten education will rise from HK$4.1 billion to HK$6.7 billion, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged in the latest Policy Address to offer quality, free kindergarten education to children aged 3 to 6 from school year 2017-18 - with a view to lifting the overall quality of pre-school education.

The government hopes to deliver quality kindergarten education through a new curriculum, better teacher quality and improved governance of schools, following implementation of free education.

Subsidies to kindergartens will increase significantly, Education Bureau (EDB) sources said. For a long whole-day kindergarten with 90 students, the annual subsidy will increase from HK$2 million under the existing education voucher system to HK$4.9 million. For a whole-day kindergarten with 90 students, the annual subsidy will increase to HK$4 million from HK$2 million now. And for a half-day kindergarten with 200 students, the annual subsidy will rise to HK$6.6 million from the current HK$4.5 million.

Kindergarten teachers are expected to receive higher salaries in future. While now there is a median salary of HK$18,000 for teachers who have received training, sources said EDB officials have estimated HK$25,000 as the median salary level for teachers, HK$30,000 for supervisors and HK$53,000 for principals.

Teachers' salaries will be safeguarded because kindergartens are not allowed to use subsidies stipulated for salaries for other purposes. Officials believe kindergartens will reward the teachers well because there is a real demand for kindergarten teachers.

Under the new scheme, the teacher-pupil ratio is expected to improve to 1:11 from the current 1:15.

From the government's point of view, half-day kindergarten education is good enough, EDB sources added, because it is good for children to spend more time with their families during their development stage. About 70 percent of kindergarten pupils attend half-day kindergartens.

However, whole-day and long whole-day kindergartens are also necessary. Otherwise working parents, especially mothers, have to quit their jobs to take care of their children.

Free education will cover at most 85 percent of half-day kindergartens but will not be offered to all kindergartens, the sources said, because some kindergartens want freedom and flexibility.

For example, some kindergartens employ foreign language teachers and run more extracurricular activities for the pupils, which incur higher expenditure. The same applies to kindergartens operating on private premises owing to higher rents.

(HK Edition 01/15/2016 page7)