• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 9:57am

English Schools Foundation

The English Schools Foundation (ESF) operates five secondary schools, nine primary schools and a school for students with special educational needs across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. It is the largest international educational foundation in Asia. 

CommentInsight & Opinion

Subsidise and reform the English Schools Foundation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 12:56am

A business leader has issued a fresh warning about the negative impact on the city of a shortage of international school places. His comments were prompted by an admission from Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim that the city faces a shortfall of 4,200 international primary places by 2016. Appearing before the Legislative Council, Ng also said the English Schools Foundation, which provides an international education for 13,000 students, must introduce a local curriculum and consider how to meet local needs if it wanted to keep its public subsidy.

It is difficult to reconcile these two statements, since localisation of the ESF would do nothing to meet the increasing demand for an international education from expatriate and local parents. It is time the bureau articulated a coherent approach to an issue that bears on the city's capacity to attract talent and therefore its competitiveness.

British Chamber of Commerce executive director Christopher Hammerbeck says it is now a business as well as an education issue, with the city at risk of missing out on an influx of talent from the West because of economic uncertainty.

The ESF is a legacy of the colonial era and may now have to accept that a taxpayer subsidy entitles government to a say. It may be reasonable to expect it to offer a local curriculum in return for continued funding. Otherwise there may be logic in treating it like other international schools. As a result, the foundation, its parents and teachers face a choice between forgoing the subsidy and paying higher fees in order to keep a purely international curriculum, or accept change and keep the subsidy.

International schools are too important to an international business hub to leave it like that. This newspaper has suggested before that in return for reforms, ESF schools could be given funding comparable with direct subsidy schools, which in turn could be given more curriculum freedom in order to attract expatriate parents and local families who have turned their backs on their own school system. That would provide more affordable choice and the foundation of a fairer system.

In this regard, it is encouraging to hear ESF chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing say - while warning that fee increases could kick in from next September - that "possible subvention under a new model is still under discussion". We trust that it is being pursued with a sense of urgency.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Give me a break !
Expats are needed in a tribe of the likes of Kevin LAU.
Different leagues play in different fields.
Au revoir et bonne nuit
Kevin Lau
It is ridiculous that the HK government impose the local curriculum to the ESF schools. If the government really imposes the local curriculum to ESF schools, the attribute of these schools will be changed. The ESF schools can not be a pure international school any more. The ESF schools are serving the expats and local people. They all are taxpayers for HK. So the ESF schools serving them should be granted subvention without preconditions. Moreover, the HK government should keep the attribute and standard of ESF schools in order to attract more expats talent to work at HK. A satisfactory studying environment is a considerable factor for expats talent to consider where to work for. Thus, there is groundless for the education bureau to impose a local curriculum to the ESF schools as a reward of subvention.
Names drop at wit’s end – Carlson Tong, Christopher Hammerbeck, and “a business leader” !
What’s that – a list of welfare promoters in the guise of Adam Smith followers?
Why doesn’t it carry Amanda Chapman. At least she pleaded as a subsidy (welfare) recipient and not threatened as an economic benefactor.
My advice is, go plural: from filth to filths. Hong Kong, then s which can be a prefix for Shenzhen, Sierra Leone, etc or a subtext for all places that, in some expats’ mind, need English to become civilized.
I’ve heard that Tokyo is very good to expats, or vise versa. Expats either won’t or dare not ask for international education in Japan. Expat children meekly accept Japanese education and won’t cry after Japanese classes.
And the Japanese naton needs expat help. English can help the Japanese to develop a more intimate relationship with the Yanks, their contractual BIG brother.
We have a lot to do to improve the city’s education system. We mustn’t waste time on the stale, colonial non-issue of ESF and its undeserved subvention.
The government is sitting on HK$633 bn in fiscal reserves. Why are you taking their bait and chasing after the ESF with your criticism when the simple fact is that HK schools are inferior in the economic sense that the demand for their services goes down as a family's income increases. Banging the nationalist drum and lashing out at the 'elitism' of international schools just extends the smokescreen protecting successive HK governments for their failed education policy. If you have learned nothing from the Cultural Revolution then by all means vilify elite education and abolish the ESF subsidy to see what happens when government policy imposes the tyranny of the lowest common denominator. The tycoons will thank you roundly for increasing their supply of unilingual Cantonese speakers to work in the local convenience store.
As usual, govt has it backwards. Eddie Ng should be making HK's public schools more international so local parents and expats alike can enjoy public education together for the benefit of all. Having 2 classes of schools: public for working poor and international for the affluent, is simply wrong. We have the money to improve the local schools with new facilities, retrained teaching staff and recruitment of foreign teachers.
Eddie Ng should be asking ESF to help improve the local schools to bring them up to ESF standards, not the other way around.
"Having 2 classes of schools: public for working poor and international for the affluent, is simply wrong." It's not only 2 classes, for within the existing system, there are the Bands, whereby a student at a Band 3 school is guaranteed a poor quality education even when comparisons are limited solely to local schools. All children in Hong Kong deserve a high quality education. The taxpayers, parents and students should demand nothing less.
Thanks....I forgot about the terrible band system. If the elites who control this place did not send their children to boarding schools overseas, the situation here would be vastly different.


SCMP.com Account