• Wed
  • Oct 22, 2014
  • Updated: 1:39am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 3:55am

English Schools Foundation happy to let market forces dictate

A while ago, I asked a permanent secretary for education why the government should phase out funding for ESF schools when both locals and expatriates attend them.

There is, after all, the English Schools Foundation mandate to provide affordable education to those who can't integrate into the local Chinese school system. Then, there is the long-standing promise and policy of the government to provide free or subsidised education for all.

By my (mis)understanding, the government then had a double mandate not only to continue funding the ESF but to double down on it.

But no, the senior official said, putting me in my place. "When you decide to leave the local school system," she said, "you become responsible for paying for schools outside the system." It's the same for foreigners or expatriates.

She considers it the government's responsibility to make available the private international schools, but not the means to attend them, that is, paying for them. So tough luck if you can't afford them. Now, you may disagree with it, but that is the government policy, which has a certain unassailable, brutal logic. You either include ESF in the direct subsidy school scheme or let it go. The government does the latter; and ESF management is more than happy with that, whatever it says publicly.

Three of seven elected parent representatives have resigned from the ESF board of governors as a protest against plans to raise fees and capital from parents. It's a noble gesture but a futile one.

When public subsidy for ESF ends in 2016, its schools will become private, and they will charge the exorbitant fees and debentures that international schools now charge. They are certain to do so given their dire needs to upgrade existing facilities, which have decayed in the past decade due to insufficient public funding.

Given the phenomenal demand for international schooling in Hong Kong, the ESF will be able to charge whatever it wants. This brutal logic is summarised by an ex-board member: "The board wants to see the government subsidy go away so ESF can go private and do whatever it wants."

Exactly! Once funding stops, there is no alternative.


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This article is now closed to comments

HKers are responsible for Hong Kong's demise. If we focused on making English and Mandarin as our primary languages in the educational system post handover, we would not even have this debate.
If the government actually planned to spend more on the local school system to improve it, then one MIGHT understand the government decision to cut ESF funding and focus on the local system. It could spend money on better school facilities, more sports facilities, smaller class sizes, updated, curriculum, better teachers, etc. Instead, money sits in reserves, in surplus, and is spent on bridges and trains to nowhere that nobody in Hong Kong wants.
We all know that the HK government doesn't want to spend any money or effort on the average HK person - not on hospitals, schools, cleaner air, parks and neighbourhood sports facilities, and certainly not on income support for the poorest of the poor.
Dear Mr. Lo,
Can you give us the Lo-down on how many government officials children actually attend the local public schools & how our secretary of education can have the audacity to always pride himself with the fact that HK has such great international schools - which has absolutely nothing to do with his department. These are run by pro bono boards without compensation.
Thank you.
I would accept the local school system if they were half as good as the ESF one. Sadly no! Ironic that HK School system was confirmed to be one of the top system in the world...sad again. It produces the half-baked bureaucrats we have in HK......
Let's taste the real grape
Let the esf board
petition for the immediate termination
of the brutal subsidy to find out
the limits of its fantasies
Since when
has AL become
an esf spokesman?
Children are screwed in Hong Kong. Sure sign of a sick society when children and old people are of little concern to government.
The government servants (irrespective of seniority) must serve to improve the local shool system so that people do not have to leave it to try to afgord schools that are beyond their means. We do not want the govt to take the people hostage and give awful education.
govt school system that cant even educate in english and prepare high quality talent is doing a major disservice, unless of course the goal is stunt their growth and let the rulers rule.
Leaving to "markets" is shunning responsible action is education officers. There does not even seem to be any intenet to do anything. How uneducated!
And what solution do you have to this problem?




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