• Thu
  • Oct 30, 2014
  • Updated: 11:33pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 2:32am

A lesson for the pig-headed bureaucrats

The government says it wants Hong Kong to be an education hub and a world city but it simply refuses to consider simple changes to its school subsidy policy that would go a long way towards achieving those goals.

Admission to international and English Schools Foundation schools is highly competitive. Even if you secure a place, high tuition fees and debentures can bankrupt your family, if you are not fabulously wealthy or on an expat pay package. Still, many local families are leaving the local system for the international-school sector. Meanwhile, land is at a premium so it would be difficult to offer more public land to build overpriced international schools. The queues will just get longer, even if you can pay.

Yeah, yeah, I know the issues are complicated. But let me be a simpleton. Some direct subsidy schools and the council that represent them have already suggested at least the beginning of a solution, if only those bloody-minded bureaucrats at the Education Bureau would listen instead of flat out refusing to consider their suggestion.

Some DSS schools have been running an international stream based on either the International Baccalaureate or the more British GCSE, with much lower fees. These have attracted not only expatriate but also local Chinese students. So why can't they expand, relieve pressure on international schools and reform our local school system with a more international outlook? Well, because the bureau says DSS rules require the curriculums they teach to cater to local students and prepare them for local exams. In short, local schools are for local kids. A DSS school like the YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College in Tung Chung, which has a 70 per cent expat student population, has tweaked a Chinese-language programme enough to teach expat kids effectively.

Why won't the bureau do more? My guess is that it's just pig-headedness with these bloody-minded functionaries. Oh sorry, I guess I should mind my manners. Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching, permanent secretary for education, is coming to our office to give a talk.

Too bad her boss Eddie "I'm clueless over national education" Ng Hak-kim is not coming. It would be fun to grill, deep-fry and stir-fry him too.

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This article is now closed to comments

impala
This does go to the core of the issue of ESF funding. The major problem with ESF funding is that the from the government's point of view, they cannot have it both ways: either you get full subsidy (DSS style) and you agree to prepare students for HK exams, or you prepare them for non-HK exams, and don't get money.

Pragmatically speaking, and given the evident demand for non-local exam preparing schools, what Mr Lo is proposing sounds sensible. As an added benefit, if we fully allow DSS schools to teach non-local curriculum, we can welcome the ESF (back) into the DSS fold and solve that issue. But it does raise a new set of problems. What exams is acceptable? The British and IB are non-controversial, but should we then also allow and fund schools who would like to adopt for example the mainland Chinese exams? Or the American ones? Indian? Are we thus going to subsidise all international schools? It becomes a slippery slope. I can't think of any good reason to grant money to schools prepping students for the UKGCE, but refuse it to a school wanting to do this for any other overseas exam.

Now, we could decide that this is all fine - that it should just be totally up to parents' choices what they want their kids to learn. But I have sympathy for the idea of not granting government money to schools the government will subsequently have no control over. How to draw the line?
ctringham
Does the government have control over DSS schools? I thought we had established that they don't really supervise them properly.
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So, yes, why not let funding go with the students. Bad schools won't survive!!
SpeakFreely
"The government says it wants Hong Kong to be an education hub and a world city but it simply refuses to consider simple changes to its school subsidy policy that would go a long way towards achieving those goals." Is this a joke? Plus in recent years our unvisitites are ranked highest in Asia. But the math does not add up. Why? We have not seen a major local innovation or IPO for the past 10 to 20 years from these university students like what we see in Silicon Valley or Korean alike.
If universities fail to turn out successful innovation and business, I don't see how it can be successful and ranked so highly. By simply publicating numerous international paper etc will not do the job. I urge all local universities to stop focusing on these useless ranking but focus on turning out more creative students.

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