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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

ESF quandary requires Education Bureau to rethink policies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 4:18am

The decision by the English Schools Foundation to end its long-standing admissions priority for children who do not speak Chinese may come as a shock to many, but it is to be expected.

The government has made it clear it wants to phase out funding for ESF schools. So, if they are to go private, it makes sense for them to behave like most other private international schools, which have no such admissions policy.

Likewise, in the highly unlikely event that it succeeds in convincing the government to reverse its stance and even raise funding, ESF schools would have to act more like local direct-subsidy schools. Preferential admissions for non-Chinese speaking pupils have long been a sore point for many local parents who are dissatisfied with local schools and want to put their children in ESF schools. It would be a "hard sell" for the government if it continues or raises funding while the ESF maintains the admissions priority.

But whether ESF schools become fully private, the latest decision will likely upset many new families in Hong Kong whose primary language is not Chinese and whose children cannot easily integrate into the local school system. Competition for places at ESF and international schools is already keen for this group even without the change in admissions criteria at the ESF.

The government, therefore, cannot just wash its hands after phasing out funding for the ESF. It has a responsibility to make sure adequate school places are available for foreign and expatriate families. This is not just about fairness, but also the practical need to maintain Hong Kong as an international hub that can compete with other world-class Asian cities to attract outside talent.

There are direct subsidy schools and other elite public schools that are capable of expanding their English-curriculum programmes. A few have experimented operating an alternative International Baccalaureate stream. Some have expressed willingness to take in more than a few token foreign or expatriate students. They should be encouraged. Instead, they are being discouraged by the Education Bureau, which still insists that local schools are for local students.

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim has reaffirmed this outdated policy. He needs to think outside the box, not to follow his bureaucrats who can only operate inside one.


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Thank you for your demand for an explanation
sorry for my delayed reply
While a student, I enjoyed Sunday morning in dorm library
devouring newspapers and book reviews, trying to understand the world
which now I have learnt is too troublesome for weekend relaxation
Good, like GOD, is the proverbial man’s meat we know,
It has different interpretations and applications
It’s unwise to promote a “good” standard
without regard for its consequences.
If Kissinger and Ban invested their times “polishing” their english
would they be speaking more like a native speaker
and would they achieve their substantive successes?
The city is sick to promote a foreign language as “indispensable”
and set “native speakers” as the good standard and the goal
knowing that language talent is a gift
Misguided talents wasting time to ape foreign speak
become gofers with acquired foreign language skill
to understand commands from native speakers
who can naturally think and operate in mother tongue.
HK government is missing a golden opportunity. Create 2 more ESF primary schools in Hong Kong. In my hometown we see schools opening up all the time due to demand. One school becomes too full so they open another one nearby and more 1/2 the kids there and do the same again once both schools are full. It is a natural method.
The government should take 2 empty primary schools, paint them up and do some fix up and then hand them to ESF for free. Or better yet there is land on Kai Tak allocated for schools. Just build a nice big primary school and hand it to ESF. The government wants Kai Tak to be the CBD2 in Hong Kong. What better way then putting an international primary school on it. Then expats and business owners wont go looking just for jobs in Central where the international schools are but seek jobs in CBD2. This would help make CBD2 extremely successful and make HK government a star and make HK a Jewel of Asia once again.
No wonder Singaporeans are generally regarded to speak better English than HKers
their standard is for their own purpose based on proper social self respect
unlike the servile depreciation evident here:
" excellent, ie, native English language skill"
"90+% ethnic Chinese, ... quality of spoken English further deteriorates ..."
"Children of NET raise the overall standard of English ... " of DSS
Such ridiculous attitude should make any HKer with proper communal self respect
ashamed of speaking "excellent" English like its natural speakers
If English is to be of any sustainable popular use here
We must bastardise it, discourage pure breed,
and twist it into shapes that suit our physique
Linguistically HK isn't the place for pedigree bulldog
The pure breed fit for development here is Chinese
Why would 90+% of the population like the English language
if whenever they open their mouths, they demonstrate "inferiority"
Such self-inflicted linguistic entrapment is ridiculously unnecessary
HK benefits the sooner we cancel ESF's subvention
Explain "servile depreciation" I'm not a native speaker, unlike it seems, yourself Mr. PSI - also, I believe the subvention to be unnecessary as well but "self-inflicted" - HOW? unless you regard wanting a higher quality of a spoken and written "world" language to be detrimental to learning, teaching, trade, business, diplomacy, etc, etc, etc................ actually wasting my energy replying to your drivel but since I just "red-bulled" myself, perhaps not such a bad thing. Cheers, Hokum!!
The Editorial assumes that the new ESF admissions policy of focusing on those students that will 'benefit' from an English language education, will mean any child that can passably speak English. I am not aware of the ESF actually saying this (only the SCMP keeps repeating this). If the ESF focuses on those students who have excellent, i.e. native English language skills, then the new admissions policy would see fewer local Chinese students in ESF schools, not more. If the ESF lowers the bar, so to speak, to any child with passable English, the ESF will become 90%+ ethnic Chinese with very few native English speaking students. The quality of English spoken in the classrooms would further deteriorate in this case and the remaining 'expat' families would likely leave the system. The ESF in this case would become an ethnic Chinese, English language system. Nothing wrong with that at all, but I didn't get the impression that this is the ESF plan. Why does the SCMP think this is the plan? Seems to me the ESF wants to keep the quality of English at least as high as it is now, if not raise it, but eliminating the local parents who lie on the application form and claim their child is a 'native English speaker'. I think time will prove the SCMP wrong.
The Government should end its funding to ESF and spend the more resources on enhancing teachers' quality and provide more support in studying the feasiblity of small-class scheme in both primary and secondary schools.
How can Eddie think outside the box? - he is a box, albeit a rubber one. But seriously, if any DSS school principal had any sense, gumption and the teeniest, weeniest brain power, he/she would realize that admitting young native speakers - many of who are children of NET teachers or similar positions would instantaneously raise the overall standard of English and boost the demand for their school, but perhaps asking a bit much considering the overpaid, under-worked mensches that inhabit those positions.
Such a brainless and stupid editorial that it attracts
Not a single comment as late as 4pm
For the kind of re-thinking we need
to eliminate the quandary left behind by the colony
let’s adapt BO’s State of the Union speech
to HK where those who could be illegal / new immigrants in the US
are treated as privileged “expatriates”
“Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned [residency for the rights to social benefits like subsidized education]—a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning [Chinese], and going to the back of the line behind the folks [who have been here long before you]”
To the writer of this SCMP editorial:
Don’t be so blind and biased as to
(1) refer only to “direct subsidy schools and other elite public schools” when local education is considered for “expatriates”. The average local school is better than what most expatriates would get back where they came from. If they want our best, they must compete. Go study ECJ’s “Belgian case”.
(2) perpetuate the quandary by continuing unwarranted privileges that would attract only the likes of “filths” and not foreign talents. Real talents need no public subsidy from a foreign country and would NEVER allow their children study in a segregated environment. HK has no need for “privileged expatriates” who come here for our social benefits.


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