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Jake's View
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 November, 2012, 2:51am

ESF sense of entitlement an antiquated school of thought

If expats can't afford international education without subsidies they will just have to go home

The ESF was established to provide an affordable international education for students whose home country was not necessarily Asia and whose mother tongue was not Cantonese. By freezing the subvention the government has forced the ESF to increase fees to a point where it is now a struggle for ordinary expat families to educate their children here.

Letters to the editor, Nov 7

I didn't know the English Schools Foundation was established for quite such laudable aims. I had always thought it was set up as a convenience for expatriate civil servants, just another perk of the job not extended to ordinary mortals.

But things change over time and I no longer see why it should be treated as different from any other international school. It happens to be one of the few things on which I see eye to eye with our government, a rare event indeed.

I shall also grant you there is an element of less laudable motive on my part in saying so. My wife and I enrolled our children in Chinese International School and paid every cent of the cost ourselves. It was a lot of money. I would have liked a subvention, too. Why did only ESF parents get one?

And then there is always the question of the ESF pay scale. They had to give us a glimpse of that one 10 years ago when the teachers decided that they no longer wanted to be linked to the government pay scale because civil servants were being made to take a pay reduction for a year and this just wouldn't be fair to teachers.

To establish a new pay scale, however, they first had to commission a professional teacher pay survey for comparable schools around the world. The survey found that ESF pay averaged 10 per cent above the top decile worldwide. Impressive indeed, the highest paid teachers in the world and then some. What are the standings now? Go on, folks. Tell us.

But let us get to that bit about it being a struggle for ordinary expat families to educate their children here.

I'm sure it's true in a large number of cases. It's not an education problem, however. It's an expatriate pay problem. If these people are not paid enough to make ESF affordable then they must tell their employers to pay more or, if the employers refuse, put their children in local school.

And if local school is too daunting a prospect, then their solution is to go back home to the countries from which they came and put their children in the public school systems there.

There is no getting around it. If employers find that the difference in ability between expatriate and local hires is not great enough to justify the extra cost of international school for the children of expatriate hires then there is little reason to prefer expatriate over local hires.

There may have been a time when expatriate hires could really demonstrate superior ability in some fields but, if ever there was such a time, it has long passed.

About 35 per cent of our workforce now has tertiary-level education. What can Europe bring Hong Kong now except people who are more desperate to find work?

It's my impression that over the past few years there has been a substantial increase in the number of expatriates from some western European countries, most notably France. When I ask why they come, the most common answer is that things are so bad at home there is no work to be found.

This may be a very good reason for leaving home to find work abroad but it is no reason for the public purse in Hong Kong to provide special subsidies to these people to give their children an international education.

ESF parents will just have to buckle down to it. No special deals. If you can't pay up for international education and won't tolerate a Chinese cultural environment for your children's schools, then go back home. Hong Kong doesn't lose.



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Sticks Evans
This was plotted a long time ago by inner circle people to get even with the British. It is not about money. It is about reverse racism.
Well, my husband took a 50% cut in his salary about ten years ago, and became 'localised'. Our son had to go to a local, but DSS subsidised, school. While most of his friends were enjoying the ESF learning environment, he had to tackle the 'antiquated local education system'. He couldn't cope with the level of Maths even though the HKDSE curriculum is less tough than the HKCEE one. Apparently, Chinese language speakers are better at mental arithmentic due to the way the grammar of their language is structured. Anyway, our son is doing better with the GCSE syllabus, which was introduced as an alternative. Now that HK is China, we as Brits are a 'minority'. In the UK, ethnic minorities can access free education for their kids, and themselves, to learn English. I have found it very difficult to find inexpensive Chinese language classes here. I also question whether I could find a good job here once I became proficient enough in Cantonese. I don't know your circimstances Jake, but if you are married to a fluent Cantonese speaker, then you can both find work here, and can afford the fees of an expensive school.There are many non-Cantonese speaking families here who have been disadvantaged for several years. It has only been in the last five years that a few local schools have taught in English. Why didn't the HK government care about us after 1997, and institute Cantonese learning in expatriate kindergartens?
Jake, you miss the whole argument. Only a small proportion of ESF schools are made up of Expat kids. ESF is educating local Children and East Asians. Only about 10% are pure Caucasians and probably only 5% outside of HK Island. These parents are HK permanent residents and have made HK their home. They pay more taxes than most people and just ask for some help with school fees. They are not leaching off society and as a whole they give a whole lot more than they take. If the HK government wants to stop subsidizing ESF English education then they should create high caliber English language Government schools which locals would then choose to place their Children into. Unless there is a viable alternative the government should not stop the limited sponsorship they currently provide.
The issue is not ESF but rather the education authority.
You are spot on...
To make matter worse, HK has the least protection from Government on local work force. Many foreign companies, especailly the problematic banks. Heard many executives claimed that if they have to cut cost in Asia, HK is a good place to start. No union and HK government will not bother you. Unlike Singapore, MAS who will ask one to groom local talents, or even warn the banks quietly. Hello...Where is the HK govt ?
The challenge is wide spread among the difficult industries like banks and financial sector, the French, British, Australian &US banks etc... all moved their friendly bankers into HK and fire the local staff who built the business for them. How could HK win on Cost Competitivenes. All imported and hidden within this financial storm and Implication will last longer than the financial storm itself.
How sad for local HK residence, it's a different form of colonization and slavery. To make it worse, their tax money went on to subsidize someone who just fire them and took their job. Yet, not all expat are bad for HK. Many who treated HK and HK people with respect are part of the community. They are as much a victim as the locals as School and ESF are only the tip of the iceberg. The recurring of colonization and different form of slavery are the real issue. Being discriminated in one home city will boil social emotion up to the point that bus will have to leave as there will be so much risk in doing business in HK at the end.
Right smack on the nail Jake! Can't agree more.
I wonder why people complain that there are not enough International school places? Off hand I can count 7-8 expat friends within the last few years, from England, Malaysia and even a Chinese returning from USA moving to HK and having their kids securing places in either ESF or International school through the company that employs them.
No doubt if you're important enough for the company that employs you, housing and school place will no doubt be provided. But if you're swinging through town, likes what you see and decides to settle down, please join the queue.
The international schools are full of locals, not just expats, as Jake vd K shows, sending his kids to CIS, because the local schools are not good enough. All our local, cantonese speaking friends send their kids to international school (or at least try to, but competition is so fierce). Its not about expats, its lack of GOOD schools. There is such competition for places in international schools because the local schools are so bad, which is what the Gov should be worried about in its education policy.
So what for my family and me? My wife and I were both born in Hong Kong. She has lived here all her life and I have only lived overseas for 3 years of education. Hong Kong is home. Neither of us read or write chinese and our children don't speak cantonese. English if the only option. If we cannot afford it, what do you suggest? Go home as you say? Hong Kong is home. I am a Hong Kong resident paying taxes, subsidising schools which my children do not meet the requirements to join. I expect the government to subsidise a school which they are able to join and that right now is ESF.
Do you honestly also think that Hong Kong would not lose if all expats left? That is an extremely close minded view. My company, one of those Hong Kong 'brands' known worldwide would collapse in an instant without expats, whose positions cannot be replaced by locals (Trust me they have tried). I am sure there are plenty of other examples.
I think the ESF needs some serious cost cutting - teachers' salaries are ridiculously high however this point alone is not reason to cut the subvention. At the end of the day, I am a true Hong Kong local - an example of east meets west if you will, and I expect my taxes to subsidise the education of my own children as well as other local children in the city.
Well, the same goes for the Nepalese or Pakistani families as well. Many can't afford ESF or International school so they had to settle for local school. Obviously they don't like it.
But then it's the same for the local Chinese as well, you think the Chinese don't want or don't need to send their kids to ESF or Intenational school just because they can fit in easily into local school?
Which parents don't want to sent their kids to a better school? Plenty of local middle class or even upper middle class struggles with their child's education fees. They had to balance between a high mortgage and higher school fees. A real dilemma that many faces!
But I am sorry, HK is a free society, if you can't afford it, too bad for you and your child. At least the government provides 9 years of free education.
Yes, some people might be critical of local school but its the same problem almost everywhere in the world. Local school still produce plenty of top students able to compete for places in some of the best University.
HKU, HKUST, American, Austrailian or British University etc, you go there and you meet plenty of Hong Kong students and the majority comes through the local school system. That says it all.
Is it the HK government's fault that you and your family has never bothered to mix with the locals and learn the local language over 2 generations and several decades?
If it is a requirement to learn the local lingo (which I do speak), then Hong Kong cannot claim to be Asia's "World" City can it? - a totally meaningless marketing gimmick.
Perhaps no schools should be subsidised. If you can't afford to sent your children to a school then you clearly are not working hard enough to earn money to pay for it? Is that what some people are advocating? Or perhaps it is fair to subsidise some schools for those who prefer to send their children to these schools. Last I checked, English was an offical language of Hong Kong alongside cantonese, so if cantonese speaking schools are going to receive subsidies then why not some english speaking ones too?...or is it simply people wanting to disregard anything to do with the English? Does it bring back painful colonial memories or is it simply people being racist towards non-cantonese speaking Hong Kong residents?
Any parent with a modicum of ambition for their child would want them to be educated in a globally relevant medium: English and Mandarin are a vital addition to cantonese to offer broader life choices for any child being raised in Hong Kong


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