ESF - English Schools Foundation

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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 12:00am

Anyone else noticed something wrong?

Has anyone noticed the astonishing press statement released by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on January 23? Clever timing, perhaps.

If you have to wash your dirty linen in public, do it just before Chinese New Year when everyone's attention is elsewhere.

The statement raises a variety of issues. First, what on earth does president Poon Chun-kwong think he is doing setting up an inquiry panel to investigate allegations of corrupt behaviour on the part of his deputy president, Alexander Tzang? That's a job for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, not something to be deliberated by a panel of academics.

Second, according to the panel's findings Mr Tzang is guilty of a conflict of interest and bypassing the PolyU's tendering procedures.

For a man who, over the years, has had a number of PolyU staff removed from their posts for breaking the rules, this is rather arrogant behaviour to say the least. And yet it has been glossed over.

According to the panel if you are sufficiently senior in PolyU you can ignore all the rules. You are above the law.

Thirdly, it has been reported that Mr Tzang and relatives were directors of a company that received millions of dollars from PolyU students, but the panel doesn't seem to find much wrong with that. This is exactly the kind of unethical behaviour in which Andrew Fastow, former CFO of Enron, engaged, and which eventually brought the energy giant to its knees.

The difference is that Mr Fastow is going to jail for 10 years, while Mr Tzang has been given a slap on the wrist and is still sitting at his fat-salaried desk.


Sai Kung

Give ESF chance to defend its policies

Your article 'NT parents angry over lack of ESF secondary places' (Education Post, March 4), omitted several points that should concern the government and the tax-paying public.

The ESF's website reminds us that 'the ESF receives government subsidies to maintain schools for English-speaking children for whom no other suitable educational facilities are available'. With privilege comes responsibility. The government and the public have a right to demand that, to justify its subvention, the ESF must provide the service for which the subvention is intended.

Last week's article shows that it has failed. The ESF has petitioned the Secretary for Education and Manpower not to reduce its subvention.

In a submission to Arthur Li Kwok-cheung in 2003 the ESF argued that it 'provides a valuable education service for children of overseas workers of all nationalities who require it'. After reading your article, Professor Li may be less inclined to accept this. I for one would like to know the ESF's stance now that it has not fulfilled its commitment.

Many children in ESF primary schools require English-language support, yet are guaranteed subsidised secondary places under the ESF's admission policy at the expense of children from other schools who can only speak English.

As a result of ESF policy, student numbers in non-ESF international primary schools are dropping which threatens their financial viability. The ESF effectively has a monopoly; it exercises commercially anti-competitive behaviour that should not be tolerated - let alone subsidized - by the government.

How did the debacle in the New Territories arise? The ESF said that its primary schools had been expanded due to long waiting lists and in anticipation of the opening of Renaissance College (which receives no subvention) and its school in Discovery Bay. Why was consideration of deserving students in independent primary schools not part of this anticipation when the ESF was fully aware of their existence and needs? Who is accountable for this self-interested planning? Why is expansion of ESF primary schools important to Renaissance College which will have its own primary stream? What will happen next year?

Ironically, many tax-paying English-speaking families will end up subsidising the education by the ESF of children who may benefit from an English-medium education but do have other options, while their own children who must be educated in English are excluded. That's plain unfair.

I recently wrote to the ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay raising these issues. They were not addressed by her polite reply. Now that they have been aired publicly, please give the ESF the opportunity to openly defend its policies and performance in light of its acceptance of subvention.


Hong Lok Yuen