My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 3:59am

Education Bureau effectively killing off St Margaret's Girls' College

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

The Education Bureau would rather kill a successful school than take extra steps to save it.

In doing so, they have insisted on bureaucratic rules and procedures to make themselves look blameless and impartial. But in trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the predicament the school faces, they make themselves even guiltier.

The school in question is St Margaret's Girls' College, in Mid-Levels, now being forced to relocate to Sha Tin. In a recent letter to this newspaper, principal education officer Li Mei-fun said the relocation meant the secondary school is opting out of the direct subsidy scheme (DSS), will voluntarily stop admitting new secondary one students, and will self-terminate after five years when all its current student graduate. In other words, the relocation is a voluntary suicide. Really?

That's not what the school wants, and certainly not what the parents of 450 students, many from ethnic-minority families, want. The school has been forced out of its site on Caine Road because of doubling rent. But it's not just about greedy landlords.

The school belongs to DSS, which mandates its member schools to own the premises they operate in to ensure secured tenure. Four years ago, the government auditor pointed this out about the precarious position of St Margaret's. Both the school's operators and the bureau failed to rectify it. So yes, the school operators are responsible, and they should share the blame.

But the bureau clearly realises the school wants to continue. Why else would Li write: "The school must provide concrete arrangements to guarantee a complete secondary education for the students and secured premises for its long-term use if it is to continue admitting Secondary One (S1) students." But by barring the school from admitting new S1 students at the Sha Tin campus, the bureau is effectively killing it.

Yet Li portrays the no-new-admissions policy as if it were voluntary. If the school must apply for a site tendering application, why did the bureau lend it the Sha Tin site? This shows it could grant a site if it wanted to.

I believe officials at the bureau are still human beings. Is it too much to ask them to behave like decent educators rather than heartless bureaucrats?

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