• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 10:24pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 7:36am

Time to ditch elitist expat class system


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

Hong Kong does not need more international schools. It needs local schools that are capable of educating expatriate students at an affordable price. That is the way it is done in almost all international cities in the Western world.

It is the only way for a modern city like Hong Kong to reform its wasteful and monstrously complicated education system to achieve both equal opportunity and quality for all - local and expat, rich and poor, Chinese and ethnic minority. That ought to be our vision and our goal. Yet few people in Hong Kong share it.

It infuriates me every time the international business community complains about insufficient places and demands the building of more international schools with public resources. Local educators and lawmakers, who ought to know better, duly repeat the demand. Officials like Eddie Ng Hak-kim act guiltily for failing to please the expats. The latest call came from British Chamber of Commerce executive director Christopher Hammerbeck. "This is not an education issue any more," he said. "It's a business issue. This is a strong case for adding facilities." Really? How can someone be so wrong on so many counts in such a short statement?

First, if we tackle education like a business issue, then it will follow the business cycle too. This means when China goes into a downturn or their own countries' economies improve, many expat families will go, just like they did during the Asian financial crisis and the Sars outbreak, leaving empty places at international schools. These will be filled by locals. But it makes a mockery of free local education, now effectively for the poor; and it creates a shortage for expats in the next upturn cycle.

Next. If, as the chamber said, overseas talent is itching to work in Hong Kong because of poor job prospects at home, they will come anyway. In good times, we may need to bend over backwards to attract them. But not now!

Finally, not all expats are on expat packages. Expensive international schools will not help them. They need affordable schooling.

What parent, expat or local, wouldn't embrace an affordable, good-quality public education for their children providing a good grounding in English and Chinese? We have the money for it; we just lack the will and vision.


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In an age where Universities stresses the benefits of having student diversity on campus. Our local primary and secondary school should follow this example.
However, the local schools have different teaching methods to current international schools, and expat children find it very difficult to study in local schools. Maybe this can also be reviewed to accommodate more expatriate students.
I think the introduction of the 334 system was a success and good for Hong Kong students in the long term. Our education department can follow this up by reforming our local school system to match the expectation of an international city.
History will condemn Cheung Man-kwong as the culprit and the “Democratic" Party as the obstruction of Hong Kong public education’s development for the past two decades.
In education, Cheung, is a segregation fanatic. The late Alabama governor George Wallace would laugh in the grave for the proud Cheung has done him.
Cheung is the idol of deadwood and cultivates deadwood in the city’s otherwise respectable teaching profession. His crony “democracy” should put many third world authoritarian cliques to shame.
The “world city” title is a hoax. Respectable cities like Geneva and Taipei won’t wear that emperor’s dress called “world city”.
The only "strength” of some of the expats who usurp local jobs is their groundless “self-confidence”. In education and ability, very few have any advantage and most are even inferior. To make up for deficiency, they act “confident”; after all, “confidence” is cheap and all they have - with little else to lose.
They pretend to be offering their “experience” whereas in fact they are gaining experience. My impression of those I’ve met is a general tendency of superficial self-importance by making something mundane and straight forward seem profound. Bigotry affects their development of depth. As they migrate about, they promote their superficial "international" knowledge.
Expat firms prefer expats to keep locals in place. Expats’ undeserved privileges obstruct the city’s normal social development.
You are an ignorant, racist bigot. Look in the mirror, if you dare, and see the log in your own eye.
Some one has a chip on their shoulder. You used the word "Bigotry", reflect on that.
Please focus on the speech and not the speaker, and speak before you preach.
What upset me is to see that some public schools have to shutdown due to insufficient number of pupils.
And in the meantime there is not enough seats at international schools ...
Who writes the headlines to your articles? "Elitist" sets the tone yet nothing is said of it in the piece itself. If you had something in mind to say along those lines, it should have been explained by you not just flung out, offensively, in the headline.
The article itself makes no sense at all. The case for international schools is that they are an essential component in attracting and keeping international talent/investment in Hong Kong. We know they're expensive and we also know that many places are taken by children from local families. The mix of local and expat students is a wonderful breeding ground for breaking down international borders and making Hong Kong an integral part of the world community, establishing a tangible basis for the World City claim.
That the government under-resources local schools is notorious and a separate issue entirely. Write another article on that and don't confuse it with legitimate and valuable endeavours to provide more suitable places for "expat" children to pursue an internationally-oriented education.
Well said. This is not an expat issue; it is a class issue. The majority of local schools are just not equipped to take in students from non-Chinese speaking families. These families are not expats in the traditional sense. Of course, we may ask why these children (mostly born in HK) are not Chinese speaking, but the reasons for this are numerous. The fact is, that any non-English speaking child in the UK or the US can integrate into a mainstream non-private school relatively smoothly - the same should be true of Hong Kong.
Agree 100%. The international schools are filled with local students as anyone who can afford it will shun the vastly inferior public schools. Improving the public schools should be the priority. We can afford it.
Regarding a business case, I run an SME and must turn down overseas applicants with the skills I seek because we can't afford the international school fees and local schools are simply not suitable. So, my business suffers and my local staff lose opportunities to develop.




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