• Sat
  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 8:12am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 2:11am

Decision to end ESF subsidy a lesson in Machiavellian ruthlessness

Shock and horror! Fees for schools under the English Schools Foundation from 2016 will be at least 23 per cent higher as the government phases out the public subsidy.

But you would expect that. The die was cast once the Education Bureau announced it would phase out the current subsidy. You want to know how much ESF parents will eventually have to pay? Just check out the fees of other international schools.

The decision to end the subsidy after freezing payment for a decade may go down in history as one of the most ruthless made by this administration. But before you pick up your pitchfork and bay for blood, it's not entirely the fault of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his education secretary, Eddie Ng Hak-kim. Of course it is their fault for allowing it to happen. But I am actually not sure they know what they are doing with the ESF in the sense they almost certainly did not come up with the policy decision - those immediately below Ng within the bureau did.

There is an almost Machiavellian elegance to the decision - if you discount its irresponsibility, unfairness and immorality. You can be sure our clueless Mr Ng would never come up with something so clever; this is reserved for the senior administrative officials within the bureau, not a few of whom - I bet - are, or were, ESF parents.

Let's see what this decision really means. Taxpayers' money will be saved. The ESF is certain to prosper, as it will be able to charge high fees and million-dollar debentures on a par with other international schools. The government can claim it is helping to boost international school places without lifting a finger. It is also a populist decision as many local families resent the real or perceived special treatment given to the ESF as an old colonial institution.

But it is never explained why it is no longer the government's responsibility to support affordable education for non-Chinese-speaking children of residents or permanent residents. Nor is it clear why local families should be left to their own devices once they leave the local system and join the international school sector.

But the reality is that these families are on their own unless they can pay the high school fees.


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This article is now closed to comments

The decision to stop Government’s subsidies to ESF is simply a political one. Its services to the British civil servants’ offspring are no longer needed as originally what these school had meant to be. It is simple but upsetting to the parents who must pay more or worst letting go of a better school for the local one. The simple political and principle decision however has been deeply shallowly viewed by the government. So, equally it can be said of all the critics. The chance of raising education budget for all schools in Hong Kong should be the case. ESF to local parents provides better teaching. Better teaching requires a better budget. ESF proves the case.
Conversely, not to increase education budget for better teachers is just sweeping bad schools in Hong Kong under the rug.
The government has massive debt and unemployment is at an all time high. Thus the government must cut spending wherever it possibly can. This is the only responsible action!
That would be correct if we were in Europe. But no we are in Hong Kong with a massive budget surplus with so much cash flowing around that we are drowning in it! There is absolutely no reason that the gvernment is cutting funding to education.
Maybe this is all just a nicely disgised housing policy. Make people pay more for education so they have less money thus stop house prices going up. That is the only possible reason for such a moronic and idiotic policy.
save money by giving District Councils $100 million each to spend on concrete , send legislators to Europe to study poverty and legislators to Korea to study incinerators, pay for expensive meals for legislators to try and persuade them to extend landfills and accept incineration etc etc etc




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