ESF expects government subsidy to stay
The government's subvention for the English Schools Foundation is expected to stay in place for at least another year, despite the lack of progress in a review of funding arrangements for the body.
ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay says she is optimistic the annual contribution of HK$283.4 million will remain, despite suggestions last year it would be phased out.
The foundation, which runs 21 schools, is preparing to work out next year's fees based on the assumption government support will continue.
The subvention has long been contentious. While the ESF wants government support to be increased after being frozen for a decade, the government hinted when it launched the review of funding arrangements that phasing the subvention out was one option being considered.
'We will have to decide on the tuition by the end of May. I don't think we are going to hear from the government before we set the fees,' Du Quesnay said. 'That means we will just have to look at the environment, the teachers' pay, the support staff pay and make a decision. I don't think there is any way that there could be a change in the subvention for the next school year; it's too late.'
She expects any change in the subvention to take effect from the 2013-2014 school year at the earliest.
Another reason for Du Quesnay's optimism is the support shown by lawmakers on the Legislative Council's education panel, as well as that of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.
'We know Leung said he would like to see the subvention stay,' she said.
Tuition fees at ESF schools rose by 2.8 per cent for this academic year.
Du Quesnay pledged to fight against any reduction in the subvention, saying: 'Education officials keep telling us that there is no chance we will be getting any more subvention. But we will keep on fighting, because we know at the end of the day, it's our parents who suffer if the subvention is reduced, because it affects their fees.'
The Education Bureau is due to report its decision to the Legco panel later in the year, though no firm date has been set.
Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung has said the funding issue was 'a problem arising from a historical legacy' from the colonial era. The colonial government created the ESF in 1967 to provide what the foundation calls 'a seamless, affordable English language education'.
A bureau spokesman said the review was based on the position of the ESF in the education system as a whole and would take into account the arrangements for schools that operate in a similar fashion in terms of governance and oversight mechanisms, admission policy, curriculum and student mix.
'We would also factor into our consideration the demand for English-medium education by the expatriate community and some local families, as well as any possible niche and uniqueness of the ESF vis-?-vis other private international schools in meeting the learning needs of students,' the spokesman added.
The ESF is also lobbying for funding to meet the growing demand for places at its Jockey Club Sarah Roe School, which caters for students with special educational needs. The school has a waiting list of 55.
'We would like to have an extra class as soon as possible,' Du Quesnay said. 'There are students who really need the most care and support, and it's really important to give them a chance.'