Q Is the rise in ESF school fees justifiable?
The fee rise is justifiable and long overdue. The ESF is a business and must be run as one if it is to continue as a provider of quality education with expansion plans.
The fact that there have been no fee rises for five years is not something to be proud of; it is folly at the highest level and demonstrates, yet again, the failings of previous senior management.
There is no guarantee the government subsidy to the ESF will continue, and there have been fairly blunt statements confirming this from senior politicians.
Before parents start rushing to complain about the increases, they should take a look at the fees being charged by other providers of quality education in this city, then they will realise what a bargain the ESF is, even at the new levels.
Parents should direct their energy into petitioning the government to provide the subsidy at the same level as they do for local schools.
Alistair Watson, Kennedy Town
The ESF's government subsidy represents (or should represent, according to the policy white bill of 1965) the cost to the Employment and Manpower Bureau of providing a place in an aided school in the government sector.
Having gone from about parity in the year 2000/01, the average subsidy for an ESF primary student is now $17,100, and $25,700 for a secondary student. This will fall further in 2006/07 due to the 2.8 per cent 'efficiency saving'.
In comparison, the average 'unit cost' of providing a place in an aided school in 2004/05 was $24,690 and $33,710 respectively, and has probably risen since then.
Is this cut in ESF subvention justifiable when there has been no change in government policy? As stated in the Legco Public Accounts Committee report, the secretary for education and manpower should 'seek the approval of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council for changes resulting from the EMB's review of government subsidies to the ESF'.
Is the cut in ESF subvention justifiable when due process has not been followed? And, finally, is the cut justifiable when ESF schools:
Educate Hong Kong's permanent resident English-speaking children;
Provide an education in English to Chinese-speaking families who seek to become bilingual or who have spent time overseas in English-speaking countries, and;
Provide an important attraction to companies wanting to invest in Hong Kong.
What kind of message does this give to the world about how Hong Kong treats its international community?
Sarah Rigby, chairwoman, Joint Council of Parent Teacher Associations
The ESF government subsidy makes a mockery of any chance of a level playing field regarding teacher salaries at international schools in Hong Kong.
The ESF operates de facto international schools with the largesse of the Hong Kong government, a luxury other international schools aren't granted.
Reported in this paper was the recent row between the Times Educational Supplement and ESF teachers, who wished to run an advertisement discouraging their UK colleagues from applying for ESF teaching positions.
The teachers, who resorted to questionable means to preserve their sinecures, scuttled the intention of administrators to reduce costs by hiring new teachers. This strife between teachers and administrators is reflected in the ESF's difficulty in recruiting teachers.
This year, the international school that my children attend has lost four teachers to ESF schools; in some cases, teachers were offered pay rises of 40 per cent. The ESF has the cash to poach other schools' teachers because of the current $264.7 million government handout.
The ESF is skewing teacher pay scales. That the EMB allows the ESF to undermine other schools' teaching staff with taxpayers' money is deplorable.
ESF chief Heather Du Quesnay could not be more correct in her advice that the ESF has to 'put its house in order'. Hong Kong has a number of international schools and the parents of students attending these schools bear the burden of paying the tuition, a large portion of which goes to teachers' salaries. This matter concerns us all.
I urge parents of students, particularly those at international schools, to petition the EMB to end this unfair subsidy, which in turn raises everyone's school fees, except the ESF's.
Name and address supplied
It is with much interest and a certain feeling of deja vu that I read of the ESF's fee increase.
As a teacher in an ESF school, I now say to parents 'Welcome to the club', for you are being treated in exactly the same way and with the same contempt the teachers have been treated by the ESF! It does not feel good, does it?
Parents now complain that the fee increase is too much and too abrupt; others question the reasons given and the way the increase was decided (with no consultation). Again I say, 'Welcome to the club'.
I must admit to a lack of sympathy for the parents. They have shown little desire to understand teachers' criticism of the ESF. Indeed, they were only too happy for the teachers to shoulder pay cuts - a loss of thousands of dollars per month per teacher - but baulk at a fee increase of a few hundred dollars per month per child.
If news of this fee increase had arrived a week or two earlier, I wonder how many parents would have voted with their feet, as the staff did at one ESF school last week, and stayed away from the school fair in protest?
I can only hope that the fee increase will go some way to enabling parents to view staff action in a more understanding light, but I am not holding my breath.
Name and address supplied