ESF - English Schools Foundation

Talk back

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 3:17pm

Q Do you have a home remedy for illness that you swear by?

Having read the Post's article 'Parents not careful with sick children' yesterday and being confronted with the Talkback question, I am left perplexed. Perhaps I misread the article. Perhaps I misread the question. Perhaps whoever wrote the question didn't read the article, for the point of the article is to call into question the wisdom and effectiveness of home remedies that the question then asks us to share.

I would have expected one of the following: When should parents seek a second (or third, fourth, and fifth) opinion from a new doctor? How can we better educate parents (and domestic helpers) on when to seek formal medical care? Should parents be held criminally liable if they fail to seek timely medical care for their child or injure their child through misuse of previously prescribed drugs?

Any of these questions (and likely many others) would have been preferable to the solicitation of every potentially dubious home remedy. This becomes quite dangerous, in fact, when you consider that herbal remedies may work through similar chemical compounds as those found in drugs resulting in the potential for an overdose if you use both.

Which home remedy do I swear by? I have a well-worn copy of the American Medical Association's Family Medical Guide which helps to remedy my medical ignorance when confronted with sickness and symptoms in my children that I don't understand. When it says 'seek medical advice', we do. When it says 'Urgent!', we go to the hospital.

Beyond that, I will studiously ignore other responses to the Post's question that might have me basting my daughter with Jack Daniels, exposing her to as many illnesses as possible so she can become a pro-basketball player, feeding her this or that weed, or liberally applying leeches to suck out the bad humours. I'd encourage others to do the same.

Mark Mulkerin, Mid-Levels

Q Is the increase in ESF school fees justifiable?

I have lived in Hong Kong for 12 years and am a permanent resident and taxpayer. I own a business and my husband is employed by a local company; we are not on expatriate packages. I have three children in ESF schools.

In Monday's column a reader, the parent of children in an international school, complains that the subsidy provided to ESF was unfair since 'the ESF operates de facto international schools'. I'd like to take issue with the writer. The ESF was created by government legislation in the 1960s to provide education in the English-language medium.

To my knowledge, the 'international schools' were not created by government legislation. These international schools are selective schools and many require debentures which are far beyond the reach of the majority of local families. The ESF's selection process is based on the ability to communicate in English; no debentures are required.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that the international schools are businesses and presumably have a duty to shareholders to make a profit. A government has a duty to serve taxpayers, and a primary part of that duty is to provide education.

Despite this, the Education and Manpower Bureau has singled out ESF children to discriminate against, providing them with a lesser subvention than it does to Chinese-language students As a result, despite significantly reducing the salaries of teachers, the ESF has had to impose on parents an equally significant increase in fees.

I believe the worst is yet to come. I believe we can expect fees to rise significantly and I would suspect teaching staff might also see salaries eroded further.

The ESF is vital to Hong Kong's ability to attract talent. As an executive search consultant, I recruit professionals on behalf of companies with a presence here. The first question that comes up has to do with schooling. There has been a marked decline in full expat packages and thus many packages do not cover the cost of education. The ESF was put in place to provide an education in English to Hong Kong students and it is essential that the bureau restores parity to the education subvention to continue to provide affordable education to students who cannot be accommodated by the schools in which the medium is Chinese.

As a taxpayer, I would like to understand why my children are not receiving the same amount of subvention as other children in Hong Kong, whose education I am supporting with my tax dollars.

Christine Houston, Central

Yes, it is justifiable. Parents were against reducing the salaries and benefits of the teachers (to reduce costs) last time, so I think they should be ready to pay the fee increase. I think the government should keep on reducing the subsidy and divert the funds to improve the English standards in the local schools and let more local students benefit.

People are saying that letting the fees increase will reduce the competitiveness of Hong Kong, but this is not true. Most of the expats will most probably have their sponsor company pay for the school fees. So, in effect, it is the companies that are benefitting from it.

For local parents who want to have their children study at ESF schools, then they should be ready to pay. If they can't pay, then they should go to cheaper schools. You spend what you can earn.

Name and address supplied

Q Do children spend too much time surfing the Net?

The internet's not a black hole for everyone. People our age are quite adept at multitasking! It doesn't matter how much time children and adolescents spend on the internet, as long as they're responsible enough to complete all their assignments, diligent enough to work to their fullest, and clever enough to either multitask or divide their time wisely.

Before returning to Hong Kong, I attended a top private school in Silicon Valley, California. Pupils there spent at least six hours a day on the Net (much of it chatting or playing games), but most pupils still managed to score within the top percentile on national examinations, and those Net surfers are now at either UC Berkeley, UCLA or Ivy League universities.

Ma Shing-chak, Tseung Kwan O