Q Is the ESF pay scale proposal fair and necessary?
Recent letters on the subject of the ESF pay-scale proposals have displayed considerable emotion, including letters of criticism of the teachers by parents and one recently by a former student.
While not denying their experience of the teachers or the education offered by ESF, I feel compelled to comment as a parent of three children who have been educated at ESF schools for the past 11 years.
While I have only had the experience of children in two ESF schools, I have found without exception that the teachers have been dedicated and caring professionals committed to the welfare of all their students.
One might note that two ESF students received the highest marks globally in the most recent GCSE exams.
This should be viewed as clear proof of the superior quality of the teaching.
Very frustrating in this debate on pay scales is the lack of clear information. All that I have gleaned from what I have read is that there is an 'old' contract that seems to give quite generous terms. Then there is the oft quoted 'average compensation package of HK$947,000 per annum'.
As a parent, I would like to understand what is the 'old' package average and what is the 'new' package average?
I would also like to understand what components are included in salary quotations. If it includes medical benefits, housing allowances and other non-cash benefits that have been assigned a dollar value, then it is very possible that the actual cash compensation is far lower.
As a parent and member of the public, I would appreciate an answer to these questions.
Cristine Houston, Mid-Levels
I am writing to apologise for an error in my previous letter (Talkback, October 5) regarding the figures being referred to as ESF teachers' 'salary'.
As pointed out by ESF's chief executive officer, Heather Du Quesnay, in her response to my letter (October 7), I claimed that the Audit Report figure was from the 2002-03 school year when in fact it is from the 2003-04 school year. I am sorry, this was a mistake.
However, Mrs Du Quesnay's claim that 'the $947,400 average does not include principals' was not a claim made initially by me. I was merely quoting from the correction published by the South China Morning Post in the October 5 edition which stated: 'The figure was in fact... for teachers, deputy principals and principals'. I should have checked this 'correction' was in fact correct. My mistake, sorry.
Mrs Du Quesnay's clarification over the fact that principals are not included in the 2003-04 calculation forces me to adjust another of my claims.
I originally believed that, based on the 2003-04 figure of $947,400 and using the current (2005-06) ESF budget for 'teaching staff' (that does include principals), my estimate of a 4 per cent reduction in ESF's remuneration costs of teachers must be adjusted upwards.
As I don't have an ESF budget that separates principals from other teaching staff, I can only assume that, as principals' salaries and benefits are generally at the top of the range in staff remuneration, removing them would result in a further lowering of the average remuneration of teaching staff than I had calculated. When this is used along with the fact that the Audit Report figure was in 2003-04 (not 2002-03 as I mistakenly reported), then the savings ESF has made in just two school years (not three years as I assumed) is even more impressive.
Mrs Du Quesnay, can you please 'clearly and accurately' tell us how much the average annual remuneration per 'teacher' has reduced since the 2003-04 school year according to your budget figures and staff numbers? If the calculations could be provided, it would be greatly appreciated.
Joseph Butler, ESF teacher, Fo Tan
Q Should internet service providers help track down illegal file-sharers?
Nowadays, the development of network communication is progressing very rapidly. A lot of illegal information can be shared over the internet very easily, but I don't think it should be the job of an ISP to help block illegal file-sharers. Consider the responsibility of ISPs - it is to provide a service to their clients, to let them access the internet.
File-sharing over the internet is just like sharing our DVD collection with neighbours or friends. Can DVD sellers prevent us from sharing our DVDs with others? So why should the ISP have the responsibility of blocking file-sharers.
C.K. Li, Sheung Shui
Of course they should help track down illegal file-sharers. File-sharing is illegal because it breaches copyright laws.
If action isn't taken to track down illegal file-sharers, the problem would become more serious and it would become much more difficult to abolish it later.
Second, it affects the entertainment industry and if this problem is not dealt with, we may no longer enjoy great movies and music. Schools should educate students not to download such illegal files.
So Man Ching, Shun Lee Catholic Secondary School
On other matters ...
It is an embarrassment to the Education and Manpower Bureau and an insult to educators that an obviously prejudiced group, the Society for Truth and Light, is being allowed to teach teachers about human rights.
They claim to be capable of providing an overview of human rights to educators while also saying that they won't discuss homosexuality or homosexuals.
No human rights concerns should be banned from discussion by those teaching the programme, particularly when issues surrounding homosexuality have been in the news and the courts in Hong Kong recently.
We want young people to be able to freely, intelligently discuss issues related to human rights.
They should discuss these issues openly with their families, peers and teachers, and they should be taught how to research the issues sufficiently and thoroughly to form objective opinions. They should not be taught avoidance and how to perpetuate traditional bias. So why would we choose to teach teachers that way?
This Society for 'Lies and Darkness' is as ill-equipped to provide an objective education as the Ku Klux Klan would be. The klan would probably be willing to raise many human rights issues, but they just won't discuss racial issues. How ludicrous.
I urge the government to reconsider this inappropriate appointment and choose someone willing to promote open, objective discussion and help move Hong Kong forward to becoming a learning, thinking society.
Name and address supplied