The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, today (May 12) invited members of the public to provide information and/or views on the regulation by the Education Bureau (EDB) of application fees collected by kindergartens.
According to the Profile of Kindergartens and Kindergarten-cum-Child Care Centres for the 2015/16 School Year, there are 40 kindergartens in Hong Kong that have the EDB's approval for collecting an application fee which exceeds the $40 ceiling stipulated by the bureau. The EDB has stated that before giving any such approval, it had examined the justifications provided by the kindergartens for charging an application fee exceeding the ceiling. Nevertheless, there are voices in the community that the cases of some kindergartens charging application fees well above the ceiling are indicative of the EDB's laxity in its approval mechanism.
Ms Lau said, "Once application fees have been paid, kindergartens will not refund them whether or not the children eventually get admitted. This would be especially unfair if parents have paid unreasonably high application fees. We are thus very concerned about the effectiveness of the EDB's regulation of the collection of application fees that exceed the approved ceiling by kindergartens."
The Ombudsman has decided to initiate a direct investigation into the EDB's criteria and procedures for approving applications from kindergartens for charging application fees above the ceiling, as well as its regulatory system for application fees collected by kindergartens. Her Office will also examine whether there are inadequacies in the EDB's current approval mechanism and administrative procedures, with a view to making recommendations to the bureau for improvement.
Source: Office of the Ombudsman of Hong Kong