SCMP Friday, October 5, 2001

School closes without warning


Hundreds of students were affected yesterday when all three branches of a private school closed without warning.
The Sun Institute of Technology and Matriculation ran courses for students from Form Four to Form Seven and computer studies classes at branches in Mongkok, Yau Ma Tei and Jordan. It is the first private school to go out of business this year.
The institute's closure follows a series of controversies in the private education sector in the past three months. Educational bodies have criticised the Education Department for not being vigilant enough in monitoring the 1,300 private schools.
A department spokesman said more than 200 students were affected by the closure, but some students at the institute estimated 1,000 students had been enrolled.
"We will offer assistance to those who wish to continue their studies in government evening schools," the spokesman said. "We have also liaised with the Hong Kong Examinations Authority to help those students who intend to take part in the 2002 Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination."
The institute's founder, Chan Hing-shing, ran the Baptist Educational Institution, which closed in 1982 after falling into arrears with rent and teachers' salaries. Mr Chan set up the Sun Institute in July.
Yeung Yiu-chung, legislator and president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said the department should have been more vigilant in approving registration of private schools. "It should require all school shareholders to declare their past records in running private schools," he said.
Alan Lee, 17, said he had registered for a one-year course on digital graphic design offered by the institute and was due to attend the first lesson at the Yau Ma Tei branch yesterday.
The school posted notices outside its branches yesterday afternoon, saying the closure was due to financial difficulties and pledged to refund this month's fees to students by mail.
A full-time course for Form Four and Five offered by the school cost $1,980 a month, while the monthly tuition fee for a Form Seven course was $2,380. Some students said they had paid examination fees to the school.
The Education Department's two inquiry hotlines for the school's students on 2782 8415 and 2782 8428 received 38 calls yesterday. They will operate until Friday.
The Sun Institute on Tuesday requested the Maria College private school, which has six branches throughout the SAR, to admit its students following its closure.
Three founders of the Infonet Education Centre in Wan Chai and Yuen Long were arrested on July 26 for allegedly duping students into paying illegal fees, while another private school, the Tutelage Education Centre in Wellington Street, Central, continued to recruit students despite the Education Department's refusal to renew its registration.
In August, Xue Cui College in Mongkok and Yau Ma Tei stated in adverts that completing its higher diploma courses for Secondary Five students in business management, accounting and financial management was equivalent to a year's study at a university in the United States or Britain. But the Education Department said the three courses had not been approved by the department and the adverts were misleading.