You get what you pay for

Education | Samuel Chan 5 Apr 2016

WHAT DO TYPICAL Hong Kong parents associate with a "private education" in the UK? Many might have images of 35,000 (HK$389,000) a year institutions with eye-catching grandiose buildings, only really accessible to financially fortunate families.

However, one must really consider what independent schools have to offer and keep in mind that there are schools with full boarding fees around 25,000.

In my day, school fees were roughly half of what they are today. There is evidence that fees have more than trebled since 1990. Research carried out just before the start of the current school year also revealed the cost of sending a child through private education is hovering around the 285,000 mark.

The average annual cost of a boarding school place is currently around 30,000.

Of course, Hong Kong parents may be concerned about these figures but they do have the strength of the Hong Kong dollar against the wobbly British pound to fall back on.

This should not just be a financial matter though.

Over the past 10 years, boarding schools have really pushed the boat out when it comes to developing buildings and facilities. Whereas pupils may have been expected to perform shows in sports halls 15 years ago, these days they may be fortunate enough to have West End standard theaters in their schools. Some schools also have league-standard football pitches. Boarding houses are becoming increasingly luxurious. The days of cold showers and walls covered with mold are long gone.

So, Hong Kong families can certainly get their money's worth. Most importantly, children still need to respect how lucky they are and respect their parents if they have to make huge financial, organizational and personal sacrifices.

Hong Kong parents should know that there are alternatives to high-fee- paying schools such as Harrow, Eton, Sevenoaks and Winchester College.

Haberdashers' Monmouth, for instance, has a full boarding fee of around 26,000, while Gresham's has very reasonable prep school fees (under 8,000 per term).

Overall, Hong Kong parents need to weigh up the risks and rewards.

Financial considerations are of course important. However, the long- term benefits of an independent school education, from the development of soft skills and leadership abilities right through to doing sports that Hong Kong children will most likely never get the chance to do back at home, does makes it a thoroughly worthwhile investment.

Samuel Chan is a director at Britannia StudyLink



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