International schools look to hike fees

Many international schools in Yangon will be raising tuition fees in the 2013-14 school year but the fee hikes do not seem to have deterred enrolments, even at the most expensive schools.

One senior administrator cited the rising cost of housing and other services for expatriate teachers and staff as the main reason behind the planned increases, while another declined to comment on specifics.

Stephen Plisinski, director of the International School of Yangon (ISY), said housing costs in the school budget doubled from the 2011-12 to 2012-13 school years.

The school, which fully subsidises housing for its expatriate teachers, expects a further 50 percent increase in housing costs in 2013-14, he said.

He said the rent at the house he lived in when he arrived in Myanmar two-and-a-half years ago had risen five-fold, from US$900 to $4500.

Owners also ask the school to pay one year’s rent in advance, which places further strain on the school’s budget, he said.

“I think at some point things will change,” he said. “But they [landlords] are demanding one year’s rent in advance.”

As rents rise, teachers could be forced to move regularly and this instability makes it harder for the school to attract the teachers it wants, he said.

“How does that provide stability for a family?” Mr Plisinski said. “I don’t look at our teachers as transients.

“When I do a budget, I look at a set of principles,” he said. “One of those principles was not to reduce the standard of living.”

ISY is a non-profit, internationally-accredited and International Baccalaureate-certified school sponsored by the US embassy. Two other schools in Yangon with similar accreditation – Yangon International School (YIS) and the International School of Myanmar (ISM) – are for-profit. They have also fully subsidised their teachers’ housing in the past.

Mr Plisinski said that 80pc of ISY’s budget goes to employee salaries, housing and other benefits. The school has also had to increase its electricity budget, he said, as power supply costs have risen in the past year. The school will increase its fees this year by $1000 per level, with parents paying $17,000 a year for the secondary level if they pay in full at the beginning of the year. The lowest fees are for pre-kindergarten, which is $9800 a year if parents pay in advance. Although expensive, ISY is still among the lowest-priced schools in Asia for the demographic it services, he said.

Documents provided by the school show that fee increases at ISY have been gradual, averaging about $1000 to $1500 a year for the past two years, or 10-12pc, depending on the grade level. Next year’s increases are 10pc across the board, Mr Plisinski said.

At ISM, a planned fee rise of 30-35pc for 2013-14 prompted more than 50 parents to protest outside the school on May 7. On May 16, the school agreed to significantly reduce the size of the increase.

Horizon International School faced similar opposition from parents over plans to significantly increase fees at its Po Sein Road campus in Yangon’s Bahan township.

As The Myanmar Times reported in March, 60 Horizon parents held a press conference on March 5 to complain about the increase, saying that tuition fees had doubled from $3700 a year in 2010 to $7430 in 2012.

A spokesperson from Horizon defended the decision to raise fees and said at the time that opposition had come from “little groups” of parents.

While fees are also set to rise at YIS, the school has not received any complaints from parents, director Greg Von Spreecken said.

He declined to provide details on tuition fees but said the school expected to welcome at least 15 new students this year.

“Our parents are not upset, so we are doing fine,” Mr Von Spreecken said.

Source Myanmar Times

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