ESF - English Schools Foundation

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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am

ESF recruitment not in crisis? It is in trouble

Heather Du Quesnay's statements in her letter 'ESF recruitment far from being in crisis' (Education Post, May 6) are so selective that they obscure the truth. She puts such a positive spin on this year's recruitment round that I'm still dizzy.

According to Ms Du Quesnay 121 out of 129 people accepted the posts they were offered. OK, we'll skirt over why eight teachers turned down jobs in 'teacher heaven' and move on to the fact that she fails to mention the posts which were not offered at all. It doesn't take a genius to turn to the classified section of the South China Morning Post to check her claims. April 22 (the week several unfilled posts were re-advertised) included a number of positions which were unfillable because the English Schools Foundation was unhappy with the quality of applicants.

These positions included head of English at both Sha Tin College and South Island School as well as two other promoted posts at South Island School and a range of main scale posts.

On the very day that Ms Du Quesnay's letter denying a crisis was published there were two columns of job advertisements in the classifieds. To summarise this week's advertisements; secondary schools need teachers of physics, biology, geography, maths, science, ICT, design and technology, economics, drama, Putonghua and business studies. Some are full-time positions, others are part-time but by anyone's reckoning this is a lot of vacancies to have in May for a September start especially given the recruitment process begins after resignations are due on January 1.

I am baffled by Ms Du Quesnay's statement about 30 per cent of jobs being filled internally. Given that the number of promoted positions available is being cut back at her insistence is she taking a teacher from one school and giving it to another? She might also like to comment on whether the ESF has resorted to employing newly qualified teachers, without any experience outside their training, to fill positions where suitable experienced candidates were lacking. Ms Du Quesnay needs to come clean. Recruitment in the ESF is not in crisis but it is in a fair amount of trouble.


Third world toilets simply disrespectful

I somehow got the message that here in Hong Kong we are being extra vigilant due to the possibility of bird flu and a general improved awareness of issues. I had naively thought that after Sars, hygiene in schools had improved and that it was Education and Manpower Bureau policy that schools provide toilet paper, soap and paper towels. These are normal provisions for any public toilets in a developed country.

However, I have to report that having just finished the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), I'm fuming. Out of the four elite Hong Kong Island schools I examined, none had clean student toilets. Two had no toilet paper; students I asked informed me it was not provided. Paper towels were nowhere to be seen. At least soap was provided, as a sort of concession I suppose. One girl told me that there had been hand-dryers but they had been removed.

Why do the same third world conditions that existed when I came here eight years ago still persist?

Apart from hygiene, what does this say about the ethos of a school? That they have such little respect for their students that basic toilet facilities are optional? The farcical thing was that at one of these schools the students were not allowed to wait in a row of six outside the assessment room as per TSA guidelines as 'it would be too hot for them'. They waited instead in an air-conditioned room, yet dirty toilets with no paper provided are fine.

I thought we were on alert? At the very least, I thought we were civilised and respectful of students. This is shameful.


Schools within school can bring out the best

While Hong Kong's education is in the middle of great change from pre-school reform to a four-year university curriculum - resulting from an impetus in the political structure of Hong Kong that elitism in education no longer serves the society well - secondary schools in the US are also going through a change.

This is not about group teaching or mixed-grade classrooms, implemented for decades, but about the fundamental structure of the school.

Secondary schools in the US are having trouble keeping students in the classrooms. Computers and iPods are providing them interests that challenge the traditional learning material.

The structural change in secondary schools is to have schools within school. Different specialised schools would allow students to follow their interests. Students in the classes would therefore share the same interests and encourage each other.

The new structure would also affect the curriculum in university. It may well replace the freshman and sophomore years and instead, first-year students will be able to declare their majors right away in their field of choice.

Technological innovation has inevitably been maturing children faster and formal education must keep up. Besides, the overall savings in time and money is self-evident should schools within school be adopted.

Furthermore, perhaps the remaining three bandings for school in Hong Kong, which still carry stigma for youngsters, may vanish for good if each and every student could find something of interest to better themselves.