ESF - English Schools Foundation


PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2005, 12:00am

Q Does the film industry need an official body to promote it?

Yes, it does. A long time ago, Hong Kong movies became well known and respected in the Asian and even international market. Our movie industry had cultivated a lot of international movie stars and directors. We all felt proud of them when they won prizes at the glamorous movie festivals.

But the situation has changed. The movie industry faces a lot of new challenges internally and externally. The government can play a crucial role in assisting the industry. Audiences in Hong Kong have become more professional. We want to see high-quality movies. All the directors know about it. But they also realise that the Hong Kong market is not substantial enough the produce this kind of big-budget movies. In order to satisfy the need of the audiences, they choose to co-operate with film industries outside Hong Kong, such as that on the mainland.

They face a lot of new challenges and problems. They are not just co-operating with a movie company alone, they have to cope with a different cultural, political, legal environment. The resource of the local movie industry is so limited that they are not capable of dealing with these new challenges individually. An official body can help our industry meet these challenges.

Our government should do something practical and visible to realise its promise to promote the creativity industry in Hong Kong.

Mike Lam, Tai Kok Tsui

Q Is the ESF pay scale proposal fair and necessary?

As a parent of two children in an ESF [English Schools Foundation] secondary school, my greatest concern is the management's apparent attitude towards what must surely be the ESF's greatest, if not only, asset: the teachers. ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay is fairly new so may not quite appreciate that parents and students value the quality of ESF education solely because of the contribution and dedication of the teaching staff.

The approach taken by management in this latest remuneration dispute smacks not only of insensitivity but, more worryingly, of a lack of support for existing staff.

Reports made to the English media of highly inflated remuneration packages are misleading and clearly designed to provoke public outrage in order to pressure the teachers to submit to the new proposals.

For instance, the reported average annual salary is significantly distorted by the packages of some long-serving staff, many of whom would now be nearing retirement. When Ms Du Quesnay speaks of addressing the inequities within the remuneration structures, an across-the-board pay cut would hardly seem to be the most logical solution. Certainly it is not fair to more recently recruited staff on more modest packages.

Further inequity would also be introduced by not including management remuneration packages in the pay-cut proposals. If the foundation is to persuade the teachers to comply with the proposals, it should be seen to lead from the top, with management setting an example.

Comments reportedly made by management to the media that a turnover of staff is healthy are frankly disturbing. The teaching body at my children's school consists of a number of very talented individuals who have been directly responsible for the enthusiasm and enjoyment my children and others derive from their schooling.

The reputation which the foundation will acquire as a bad employer, should a significant number of staff resign as a result of shoddy treatment in this pay dispute, will hardly serve to attract the supposedly large numbers of talented teachers out there ready and waiting to take over at reduced salaries.

It is recognised that the difficulty stems from the need to retain the government subvention. I believe that many parents are aware of the need to raise school fees, an issue which has been mooted for a while but not yet put into place.

Given the quality of the education and the upturn in the Hong Kong economy, a fee increase within reason, together with provision for genuine hardship cases, would probably be palatable when accompanied by a compromise agreement with the teachers. Most parents within the ESF system can see for themselves the benefits their children have acquired from the excellent teaching.

It is advantageous to everyone involved that the foundation, in complying with government pressure, provides and is seen to provide unequivocal support to its main asset, the teaching body.

Poh Kim-Keow, Sai Kung

In yesterday's Post, Julian Harniess, chairman of the Association of Professional Teachers of the ESF, says there was no consultation about the pay cuts, that they were being imposed upon them. Welcome to the real world, Mr Harniess.

As an expatriate teacher of Chinese racial origin who has now taught in the local system for 13 years, I have had to survive without your perks, housing allowance, flights back home and education allowance, and also had three pay cuts in the past four years, as have more than 40,000 local teachers.

Take your pay cut like the rest of us or go back to Britain (where incidentally, I have to pay overseas tuition fees for my son to attend higher education, even though he was born there and holds a UK passport).

Arguing about whether you deserve the cuts or not is irrelevant as none of us have any real say in the matter. Just get on with your job and enjoy your higher pay and perks, and occasionally you might think of us teaching in the local sector.

Steven Wong, Sha Tin

On other matters ...

In the article on new measures that will make it less likely that young single people will be granted public housing (September 27), it was mentioned that the government, in relation to this matter, is taking advantage of the fact that the city, unlike many developed areas of the world, does not have a law against age discrimination.

Let it be noted that this omission is also taken advantage of by other institutions, for example the English Schools Foundation, to discriminate against employees on the basis of age. Teachers who are perfectly healthy and willing and able to work are forced to leave their posts at the age of 60 because of a lack of such a law. In this case the employers can justify their action by reference to the retirement age, but it is a retirement age that has no sense when related to the capacities of individuals concerned. In a recent edition of your newspaper it was reported that a 59-year-old lady in China is taking her employers to court because, owing to retirement rules, she is being forced to leave her job, despite wishing, and being able, to continue. Obviously on the mainland the law is more advanced in this area than in Hong Kong.

Could a law against age discrimination please be enacted here so that employers such as the above can be taken to court when they deprive their employees of gainful occupation by using a retirement policy to hide the fact that their only real interest is to cut costs?

Chris Stubbs, Mid-Levels