ESF - English Schools Foundation


PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am

ESF parents have limited options

How ironic that Cynthia Sze accuses those of us writing to remove discrimination in terms of fees against pupils attending ESF schools of writing 'without regard to relevant facts and their moral significance' ('ESF must accept level playing field', September 15).

She states that 35 per cent of English Schools Foundation places are occupied not by non-permanent residents but rather by 'non-residents'.

She says that 'English is the medium of instruction of many local schools' (many is a term which ordinarily is taken to mean a significantly plural number). As I stated in my letter ('ESF fills role government should play', September 2), when my Hong Kong-born daughter reached school age there was only one local school available in our school district for her, which was neither secular nor co-educational.

The Basic Law states that English and Cantonese are official languages. Yet, English speakers continue to be discriminated against, firstly with regard to access to non-ESF local schools and again with the lower level of subsidy per pupil at ESF schools.

If English standards continue to decline in Hong Kong, as Ms Sze accepts, this is most unlikely to result in the rest of the world abandoning English as the primary international business language.

Richard Di Bona, Mid-Levels

Local schools snub some taxpayers

Cynthia Sze ('ESF must accept level playing field', September 15) has written several anti-ESF letters, parts of which could be agreed with but for two basic facts which she seems to have overlooked.

She makes continual reference to 'selective non-residents'. Anyone who comes to Hong Kong to work is immediately a resident (albeit not a permanent one) and is entitled as a taxpayer to the same health and education subsidies as anyone else living here.

There is no such thing as a non-resident attending a local school of any description. I am sure she would complain most vociferously if she were to be given a work contract for Britain, have to pay taxes and then be told her children could not attend a local school there or get National Health Service treatment; so this is reciprocal.

It should be noted that few people in Hong Kong pay any tax at all and expatriate workers are one of the groups that pay tax as their salaries must be ample enough to be granted visas in the first place.

The second fact which she refuses to take on board is that few Hong Kong schools, even the English medium of instruction ones, will accept non-local students as they do not speak Cantonese.

Hong Kong is light years away from providing the sort of language education afforded to non-English speakers in English-speaking countries. I am sure countless parents would ditch the ESF at the first possible chance if places were available at local schools.

Why does Ms Sze not use her energy to get local schools to accept non-Chinese students? That way, her hated ESF would soon die off for lack of demand for places.

Sam Gregory, Shau Kei Wan

No fond memories of zoo visits

I would like to dispute Ocean Park chief executive Tom Merhmann's claim that 'seeing living, breathing animals up close promotes a strong personal connection between the animals and the 700 million people who visit zoos and aquariums annually' ('Sea change for Ocean Park?', September 19).

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, but being taken to circuses to watch captive tigers, bears, monkeys and elephants perform tricks certainly created no 'strong personal connection' between me and them. Nor have the many, many visits to zoos and aquariums in various places around the world through my childhood.

What it did start to make me realise, over the years, was how wrong the entire notion of capturing animals for our personal entertainment is. My own 'strong personal connection' and empathy for animal rights comes not from zoos, aquariums and circuses - unless Mr Merhmann would like to consider negative reinforcement as a motivator - but from being able to now watch the most incredible documentaries on multiple wildlife channels, 24/7.

These same channels make zoos and aquariums entirely redundant.

Yes, we need scientific research to help wild animal populations survive. But let's stop kidding ourselves - Resorts World Sentosa-style - that using wild animals as entertainment to line a company's pockets is somehow some kind of philanthropic gesture. It demeans us all.

Suzanne Miao, Kennedy Town

Doubts about growth of free papers

Hong Kong has a varied selection of free newspapers and the latest one to hit the streets is Sharp Daily. Given that there is no charge, these papers can certainly save citizens a lot of money. You might spend between HK$40 and HK$50 a week on paid papers.

More of these free publications are being launched, however, and I wonder if they are really suitable.

They contain countless advertisements often at the expense of news and business stories. If you relied on a free paper to acquire all the information you needed about what was happening here and internationally, you would not find much and what you could read would not be detailed.

As I said, some pages are full of adverts and there have been some complaints of 'indecent content'. This could have a negative effect on young people and I do not think their written language or critical thinking skills will be helped by reading these free newspapers.

I hope all citizens, especially youngsters, will consider the core value of newspapers, that they have a responsibility to report honestly and comprehensively the news from all over the world.

What we require is detailed information about what is happening.

Keith Cheng, Sheung Shui

Extravagant excess has fuelled anger

Holden Chow, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's (DAB) youth wing, is shocked by the violence of recent protests ('Violent protests are sending wrong message to our younger generation', September 17).

His letter drew attention to the recent riots in London. The scale of violence in Hong Kong and London simply cannot be compared, but there are perhaps some similarities for the staunchly pro-government DAB to ponder.

Most participants were disaffected youths whose employment prospects are low and declining, who can see that upper echelons of society are milking the system for extravagant excess.

For British politicians' perks and investment bankers' bonuses read Hong Kong's civil servants' deferred benefits and tycoon developers' blatant greed. The procrastination of government in dealing with worsening poverty and its arrogance in handling public consultations are reasons that protests are becoming more vigorous.

Nothing inflames protesters more than officials turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to genuine livelihood problems while giving full attention to the vested interests of the elite.

As the DAB is reputedly a 'grass-roots' political party, I'm surprised that Holden Chow is not connecting the dots.

J. F. Kay, Lai Chi Kok

Unimpressed by chief executives

Hong Kong will have a new chief executive next year.

Hongkongers have accepted that the election process is just a fa?ade. It will all come down to what Beijing wants.

Looking back, I believe the first chief executive of the SAR showed heart and sincerity towards the Hong Kong people. I don't think his successor cares and they have both been inept.

The job is made more difficult because of the ideological differences between Beijing and Hong Kong. Both chief executives became highly unpopular with Hong Kong citizens, but to the central government that was irrelevant. Its priority is to see social harmony here. But the painful lesson to learn from the first two chief executives is that social harmony is disintegrating.

Therefore, Hong Kong needs its next chief executive to be a proven decision-maker, and someone who is willing to make those decisions even if they are unpopular.

He, or she, must also address the serious problems of poverty, inflation and housing.

Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels