ESF - English Schools Foundation


PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2011, 12:00am

ESF fills role government should play

Cynthia Sze is correct in pointing out that there is nothing like the English Schools Foundation anywhere in the world ('Hong Kong should not pay ESF to maintain its luxurious schools', August 30).

In most other developed parts of the world, governments provide adequate educational opportunities to children in official languages.

If she were to check another legacy of Hong Kong's history, namely the Basic Law, she would see that English remains an official language. Yet when my daughter (who like me has the right of abode in Hong Kong) reached school age the only English-language government school in our district did not offer secular or co-educational choices.

Given the administration's abdication of responsibility regarding English-language education, the ESF is a de facto provider of English-language education on behalf of the government.

Surely it would make more sense and also be fairer to provide an equal level of support to ESF pupils as to pupils in other subsidised/subvented (Cantonese-language) schools, that is, by doubling the subvention to ESF.

Furthermore, if Ms Sze regards the use of English as an official language as a colonial anachronism, then surely she should also argue that Cantonese should be phased out in schooling (and also as an official language) in favour of Putonghua - so as to remove any aspects of a colonial legacy from Hong Kong and let it adopt a position as just another city in the People's Republic of China.

Richard Di Bona, Mid-Levels

Chinese has two strikes against it

It is surprising to see Pierce Lam ('Chinese has simplest grammar', August 24) criticising English for lack of consistent relationships between sounds and letters when he is advocating Chinese as a global tongue.

English spelling is highly inconsistent, but it is only necessary to learn 26 letters and their alphabetical order to look up any word in a dictionary. Perhaps Wikipedia was comparing English with other European languages that have a more transparent orthography? The phonetic component of Chinese characters is obscure. Wikipedia notes that Xu Shen in the Han dynasty 'classified characters into six categories, namely pictographs, simple ideographs, compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters'.

I would say there are two major problems preventing Chinese from becoming a global tongue: the tonal nature makes it difficult to distinguish words for non-native speakers, and the 40,000 Chinese characters make it difficult to read and write. The simplicity of its grammar does not outweigh these problems.

Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang

Train won't go if doors are blocked

We would like to thank Angel Hon for her support of the MTR over the years and her comments ('MTR service is heading downhill', August 22).

The MTR Corporation is dedicated to operating a safe, reliable and efficient railway service for the people of Hong Kong.

With a consistent passenger-journeys-on-time performance of 99.9 per cent each year, it is recognised internationally as one of the world's most reliable and best-performing railways.

However, 99.9 per cent still indicates that for every 1,000 train journeys, there is one that may experience a delay of five minutes or more.

In any complex modern underground system that requires tens of thousands of components to work together seamlessly, delays and equipment failures will occur from time to time. The corporation appreciates that delays inconvenience passengers and always strives to restore services as quickly as possible to minimise any inconvenience caused.

Regarding the event described by Ms Hon, we wish to reassure her that the fail-safe design of the MTR system would not allow a train to move away from the platform if a person is standing between the doors, preventing them from closing. An indicator in the train driving cab confirms to train captains whether all doors have closed properly.

If the display indicates that any one pair of doors is not properly closed, train captains will reopen the doors to release any obstruction.

Only when all doors are confirmed closed will a train be allowed to leave a station.

The MTR Corp is aware of the public's high expectations of its service and makes efforts to seek continuous improvements.

Valuable comments like those provided by Ms Hon go a long way to helping us achieve our aim.

Jason Chan, media relations manager, MTR Corporation

Disagree, yes, but let others have their say

A decision has still to be made on whether domestic helpers will have the right of abode in Hong Kong. Even when a judgment is made by a court, parties can appeal. It is normal to see different views from various groups expressed freely in Hong Kong.

The supporters of a right of abode are asking for fair treatment of all foreign workers, whether they are, for example, bankers, airline pilots, chefs or domestic helpers.

Those who oppose the right of abode for helpers say that their contracts are signed with very different intentions.

They are for two years and are renewable, and the helpers mostly live with the employers rather than being part of the general workforce.

It is now normal to see people with differing views and campaigns gathering to protest on Sundays. This shows Hong Kong still enjoys freedom of speech.

However, it is unfortunate when you see some radical groups, such as the League of Social Democrats, taking an intolerant approach to those whose views they oppose and confronting them in a belligerent manner.

People from groups such as the league are always asking for democracy, respect for human rights and freedom of speech, but why do they not practise what they preach?

Ray Cheung, Kowloon Tong

Tight police security was appropriate

I think the security arrangements by police for the visit to the University of Hong Kong by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on August 18 were appropriate.

He is a senior figure in the central government, and, without tight security being in force, anything could have happened.

Look, for example, at what happened at the Legislative Council security panel when People Power lawmaker Wong Yuk-man threw a T-shirt at our police chief, Andy Tsang Wai-hung ('Row over campus incident deepens', August 30).

Some protesters have shown no respect for the views of other groups. Also, students who disagree with HKU vice-chancellor Professor Tsui Lap-chee should at least show respect for him.

Some of them claim that democracy is dead in Hong Kong, but this is not the case. They are free to express their views through avenues such as writing to the newspaper and talking on radio phone-in shows.

G. Chan, Happy Valley

Give sports teams more assistance

The 26th Summer World University Games in Shenzhen had some remarkable performances, and all the competitors should be proud of their efforts. Some of them will go on to take part in next year's London Olympics.

The Hong Kong team did not do badly, earning three bronze medals. However, I think it is time the government paid more attention to sport. It needs to spend more money to help with the development of team sports.

If this is done, then at future events Hong Kong teams can achieve even better results.

C. Chan, Kwun Tong

Get handout through post office

I refer to the letters by D. K. Patel ('Handout account rule unfair', August 26) and Rattan Mangharam ('Adjust the arrangement for payment', August 30).

If you have a joint bank account, then the best way to claim the HK$6,000 government handout is to go through the post office. You can get a cheque issued in your name after submitting your forms to the post office and deposit it into your joint account.

This is the best arrangement for people who do not have a bank account or, as is the case with your correspondents, have only a joint account.

Rajen Gohel, Lamma