A harrowing tale of injustice to schools

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 10:49am

Ignore reputable homegrown international schools while pulling out all the stops for a famous foreign franchise that caters to the children of the rich and well-connected. That seems to be the way the Education Bureau operates these days.

Bring up a hallowed name like Harrow, the school of the young Winston Churchill, and the government immediately signs a cheque for a HK$273 million, interest-free loan and leases a huge prime site in Tuen Mun practically for free. Despite these taxpayer subsidies, the Harrow International School is still charging HK$3 million for a capital certificate and HK$600,000 for a debenture. It's gratifying to know our hard-earned tax dollars are going into subsidising some rich guy's child at a school to which you and I will never be able to afford to send our children.

Meanwhile, the International Montessori School is in danger of being kicked out again. The non-profit school has been quietly operating in the city for 10 years, using its famous teaching method to serve the needs of expatriate and local families. It is not as well-known as some of the bigger international schools, so it has not had much help from the government. Securing a permanent campus has been a continuing struggle.

The school has moved three times since it was founded. It has found a decent location for its primary section in Tin Hau owned by the Construction Association, but the lease only runs until 2014. After that, the association may want to use the site to build a youth hostel under a new programme sponsored by the government.

The school, co-founded by Anne Sawyer, is precisely the kind of successful home-grown schools that deserve government support. At least that should be the case if common sense prevails. The government's youth hostel programme is a worthy project to pursue. But there are surely many suitable sites besides one that is already occupied by a school. Officials should help make sure the school can stay. But if that proves difficult, it's time for the bureau to assign a permanent and suitable site for this worthy international school.