What is a DSS school?
For years, Hong Kong’s education landscape has been dominated by government schools and government-aided school. The emergence of DSS schools, which means those schools operate under the “direct subsidy scheme” (DSS) is precisely to echo the trend of offering diversity in education and to address the future needs bring about by dynamic society.
DSS schools are different from its counterparts in the sense that they enjoy more autonomy and flexibility in designing curriculum and determining school fees as well as entrance requirements.
Why does the government implement the “direct subsidy scheme”?
The rationales behind areto provide parents with greater choices and to foster a more vibrant and diversified education landscape by means of government subsidies and competition among different school sectors.
How does the government subsidise the DSS schools?
The amount of recurrent subsidy received by DSS schools will vary, depending on their intake of students and fees.
DSS school will continue to receive full recurrent subsidy from government until its fee level reaches 2 1/3 of the average unit cost of an aided school place. Beyond that level, no recurrent subsidy will be provided.
Remarks: The average unit cost of an aided school place for a school with an operating history below 16 years (in academic year 2018/2019)
Primary 1 to 6: $58, 387
Form 1 to Form 3: $60, 482
Form 4 to Form 6: $73, 996
Why do the DSS schools have to charge fees?
School fees are mainly used for providing additional value-for-money facilities and for implementing effective measures to enhance learning environment. Things like hiring more teachers, organising extra students enrichment programmes and developing curriculum that can best actualize students’ potentials are cases in point.
Does it mean that all DSS schools have to charge a substantial amount of school fees?
School fees of most of the DSS schools are at reasonable level while some of them can still operate smoothly by solely relying on government subsidies without charging fees.
Does it mean children of humble background will be excluded from DSS schools?
DSS schools will not take students’ family background into account when deciding their entrance requirements.
At the same time, DSS schools are required to earmark at least 10% of their fees for scholarship/financial assistance schemes.
If a school charges a fee between 2/3 and 2 1/3 of the average unit cost of an aided school place, then for every additional dollar charged over and above 2/3 of the unit cost, the school should set aside fifty cents for scholarship/financial assistance schemes. This measure is to ensure that no child will be excluded from studying at DSS schools for economic reasons.
Does the implementation of DSS means the government will take a back seat in providing education?
The DSS will not affect the government’s commitment to free and compulsory education, and no child will be compelled to attend a DSS school. Currently, places provided by DSS schools for both primary and secondary education only account for 1.2% and 5.8% respectively. While most of the government schools will stick to the present principles, i.e. government-run or government-aided, it is assured that the government will continue its effort to enhance the quality of education by placing a substantial amount of resources for this end.
How can the government assure the quality of DSS schools?
The promotion of DSS schools is to echo the beliefs that espoused in the education reform, that is, to keep pace with the ever-changing world and to improve the quality of both teaching and learning. Only by doing so can DSS schools secure the support from parents.
All DSS schools are required to sign a service agreement with the government comprising a proposed school plan and indicators for evaluation. What is more, a full assessment on the operating standard of the DSS school will be conducted after the first 5-year to ensure quality education can be delivered.