• Wed
  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 4:41pm

Talkback

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am

Q Do you think Hongkongers have an unhealthy lifestyle?


Most Honkongers do not check their cholesterol at the doctors' office - due to high doctors' fees. One test: average fee of $600 to $800 for 10 minutes' talk, test result the next day, and another day's consultation for advice and medication on the result.


Is there a clinic that does blood tests at a reasonable price? At government hospitals, the waiting time could be as long as 90 minutes.


Name and address supplied


Q How can recycling of newspapers be improved?


I am quite angry over what Sing Tao chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok said: 'Newspapers are supposed to be thrown away.' Yes, it is true that newspapers become rubbish. But from what he said it seems that Sing Tao takes no responsibility for creating such a big amount of rubbish.


The launch of a fourth free tabloid would mean there are too many free newspapers. Most people will rather take a free paper than pay for one. Some even pick up all three free tabloids. The content of these papers is very similar. Moreover, most people can't finish reading them on the MTR journey and throw them into the rubbish bins.


Recycling bins placed in the MTR station must be increased immediately to deter people from throwing papers into rubbish bins. Free tabloids should not be handed out; they should be placed in stands so only people who really want them will collect them.


The public should stop picking up so many free newspapers. The newspaper companies should limit the number of copies printed and use recycled paper.


Elaine Pang, Tseung Kwan O


Q Is the ESF pay scale proposal fair and necessary?


ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay has been very skilful in using selected pay figures to manipulate the media on this issue.


Let us instead look at the facts. The average ESF teacher on a new contract - now the majority in my school - earns between $560,000 and $900,000 per year, including all benefits.


This is a good salary but not out of line with packages being offered in other international schools in Asia.


Teachers have come to Hong Kong on the promise of a good standard of living in what is a very expensive city. It is pointless to compare them with the pay of local workers because they are competing in an international jobs market.


I realise teacher-bashing is one of the world's favourite sports, but your letter writers should be in full possession of the facts before they sound off in such vitriolic terms.


Name and address supplied


If the ESF staff are unhappy with the proposed cuts to their salaries and perks, I suggest they vote with their feet, resign and return to their countries of origin, where they will be in a much better position to compare their ludicrously extravagant remuneration packages with the teachers working there.


The ESF could then employ teachers who actually realise exactly how good the deal they are getting is.


These teachers work with small classes, have to deal with few disciplinary problems, and enjoy a five-day week and long holidays, so they don't really have much to complain about. It would do them good to spend a term in a local Band 5 school and experience the conditions under which local teachers have to labour.


I wouldn't mind if the quality of teaching reflected the remuneration of the teachers, but it doesn't. As a parent of children attending ESF schools, I expect a far better service than I am currently receiving. Poor and erratic marking, lazy teaching, such as reading in class, the inability to follow examination syllabi and the assignment of tasks, the point of which mystify me, seem to be the norm.


I expect my children at the very least to be taught to write properly, but unfortunately that has been left to me.


I have been forced to seek alternative, extra-curricular assistance to raise my children's standards to levels I deem acceptable. Most infuriating is the condescending, neo-colonial way many ESF staff, particularly those whose 'service' goes back to the pre-1997 era, treat parents, or rather, customers.


Before I am accused of not understanding the situation, I would like to point out that I am not a layman. I have been involved in education at all levels, from primary to tertiary, for 15 years, both in Hong Kong and the UK, as a teacher, lecturer and administrator. I have also been a public examination marker. In addition to this I know a number of such teachers socially, so I am well aware of the benefits they receive and the work they do.


I don't accept the arguments that I am paying for quality, because quality is the one thing I am not receiving. It enrages me to hear of staff morale being at a low ebb. With an average income of nearly $80,000 a month, on top of the aforementioned long holidays they receive, there is no reason their morale should be low.


So if the ESF teachers are not happy, by all means leave. The ESF would benefit from an influx of new teachers who possess a sense of perspective.


Name and address supplied


Heather Du Quesnay is very courageous in her proposals to cut ESF teachers' salaries and reduce benefits. Certain inequalities should be addressed.


However, everything has a cost. If the cost of this radical package were to be a demoralised staff who are no longer prepared to go the extra mile - something that ESF teachers are renowned for - the question would have to be asked if the cost is too high. Many long-serving teachers have made their careers in Hong Kong and shown their commitment to the children they educate in ways that do not show up on a balance sheet.


Has Ms Du Quesnay been in Hong Kong long enough to know that? What is her commitment to Hong Kong after just a few months? Will she still be here in five years to assess the consequences of her new proposals?


There are many ways to reach a goal. As a parent, I would not want the positive spirit to disappear from my child's school through disenchanted teachers who work for an organisation that doesn't value them.


Name and address supplied


How much do Hong Kong people, local or expat, want highly qualified, hand-picked teachers to further the English-based education of their children? Is not the continual degradation of the ESF package a pernicious cancer that will ultimately have mortal consequences?


Parents will not accept mediocrity and it is already a huge step for a top-ranking teacher to leave his/her homeland. Average salaries and mediocre benefits will not attract the best, only those with little to lose and even less to offer.


The comparison of average salaries of ESF versus other teachers is hopelessly skewed as a comment in your article highlights - ESF teachers hired before 1988 earn very large salaries. A more relevant comparison would surely be between teachers with, say, five years' experience in the post. These are the lifeblood of ESF and represent a blue-chip investment.


ESF works because it offers quality. Quality costs - parents know this.


Paul Barton


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