Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Legco approves loan to Harrow


Teachers’ union head says it’s wrong to use public money to fund the school and critics see loan as sign of collusion between government and private sector
Ada Lee
Jun 09, 2012

The Legislative Council yesterday approved a HK$273 million interest-free loan to the exclusive Harrow International School for construction of its premises.

The loan is to meet “part of the construction costs of its new school premises” in Tuen Mun, and is part of the government’s commitment to support the international school sector to meet the demand for places for foreign families, according to a government document to the Finance Committee.

But Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, doubted the legitimacy of using taxpayers’ money to fund the school. Some critics also see the loan as another sign of collusion between the government and the private sector.

Harrow will be the first international school with boarding facilities in Hong Kong. It is expected to accommodate 400 primary and 750 secondary pupils when the first phase of construction is completed. There will be 99 classrooms, a boarding house, swimming pool, fitness room, an outdoor sports field and other facilities, the paper said.

Construction for Harrow’s premises is supposed to be completed by the end of the year. The first phase of the construction is expected to cost HK$878 million.

“As a non-profit-making organisation, [Harrow] can only obtain a bridging loan for the construction of school premises from private or commercial sources with the backing of the government’s interest-free loan,” the government paper said.

“The provision of an interest-free loan to [Harrow], which provides non-local curriculum for the international community in Hong Kong, will help in facilitating the provision of additional international school places to meet the demand.”

But Fung said taxpayers’ money should be used in a better way.

“Although generally speaking, the school is nonprofit, it’s not right to use public money to fund a school with abundant resources.”

He said the lack of international school places in Hong Kong should be alleviated from the root of the problem.

“There are many international schools in Hong Kong. It’s just that some are taken up by local students. We may have to rethink how to allocate those places to those who are really in need.”

The 3.7-hectare site at So Kwun Wat was allocated to the school in 2009, along with three other sites for international schools. Harrow is required to reserve at least half of its places for non-local students. The school’s first batch of HK$600,000 debentures sold out last year.

A report from moving consultant firm Crown Relocations in February found that only two international schools on Hong Kong Island, and four in the New Territories and Kowloon, had vacancies for Primary One pupils. The report surveyed 37 international and English Schools Foundation schools popular with expats.

Government figures show there is growing demand for British curriculum school places, driven by a 35 per cent growth in the British population in Hong Kong in the past five years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *