14 Hong Kong kindergartens to shut by end of school year amid shrinking pupil population

Hong Kong’s shrinking pupil population has taken a growing toll on kindergartens, with education authorities saying 14 such institutions will close down by the end of the current school year.

An industry leader also said on Monday that she expected at least 20 preschools would close before the beginning of the new academic year in September.

Choi Lai-fong, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said private kindergartens, in particular, were struggling with rising rents that accounted for at least half of their tuition fee income.

Most landlords had raised rents after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Private preschools have been suffering from the emigration wave in recent years as many middle-class families chose to emigrate,” Choi said.

The private Rightmind Kindergarten in the South Horizons housing estate in Southern district reportedly told parents it would close down in July, saying it was unable to find suitable investors.

The operator has already closed down another kindergarten in nearby Shum Wan.

Rightmind charges HK$8,330 (US$1,070) per month and had 99 pupils as of September 2022, according to official information. The Post has approached the operator for comment.

Hong Kong currently has 1,099 kindergartens, with most being subsidised by the government. Photo: Shutterstock

In the current school year, there are 1,099 kindergartens in the city, with 67 per cent or 738, subsidised by the government. The rest are private independent and international preschools.

An Education Bureau spokeswoman said in reply to Post queries that 14 kindergartens would cease operations by the end of the current school year, including one merging with other schools.

However, six new kindergartens had also registered and another four were applying for registration, she added.

Choi, who is also a principal at a private kindergarten, said most parents would decide which preschools to let their children study in September, months after the Easter holiday.

“Preschools generally require parents to pay miscellaneous fees and buy school uniforms after Easter,” she said. “So parents with several offers on hand will decide then … that’s also the time that the preschools know if they could the survive next school year.”

She added: “For private kindergartens, at least half of the tuition fees we receive are used for paying rent. But most of the landlords raised rents after they suspended the increase during the pandemic.”

Choi said schools struggling to pay their rent would choose to close down.

She said some middle-class families tended to seek private kindergartens, but operators had been suffering from lower enrolment due to the emigration wave in recent years.

She expected at least 20 preschools to close down by this summer, while 17 had already gone in the last school year.

Earlier, three private kindergartens in Tuen Mun, Ma On Shan and Tai Po also announced they would close down by the end of the existing school year.

New Generation English Kindergarten (Tuen Mun) pointed to challenges in sustaining its business, including continuous declines in the birth rate and pupil population, as well as the emigration of young families and the retirement of veteran teachers.

It added that it had also failed to negotiate a rent adjustment.

Closures are likely to continue as some institutions earlier announced they would cease operations from next year, giving parents advanced notice so they could look for other kindergartens.

Last September, a prestigious Hong Kong kindergarten in Kowloon Tong, Kentville Kindergarten, announced it would close down in the next three years, citing low birth rates, emigration of young families and staff retirement.

Apart from private ones, two preschools joining the government subsidy scheme in Ma On Shan and Tai Wai told authorities they would close down next year in August.

The number of children studying in K1 has seen a decline in recent years, dropping 16 per cent from around 50,000 in September 2021 to 42,200 in September 2023.

Preschool enrolment is expected to decline in the coming three years with the number of births falling below 40,000, and standing at 37,000 in 2021, 32,500 in 2022 and 33,200 in 2023.



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