ESF - English Schools Foundation

Former lawmaker has flawed views on local education

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 3:05am

Cheung Man-kwong, a former lawmaker experienced in politicking for "democracy" and a local teachers' union, shows his true colours in the SCMP debate on public subvention for the English Schools Foundation (October 15).

He counsels that as "we have given the ESF a lot of subsidies and land in very good locations for the building of its schools" it should "serve the people it is supposed to serve". Whom is ESF supposed to serve?

It is mandated to serve, without racial or religious discrimination, children "who are able to benefit" from "a modern liberal education through the medium of the English language".

However, Mr Cheung defies this fair statutory provision and asserts that ESF should serve preferentially "the children of foreign nationals working in Hong Kong, or non-Chinese residents". He advocates foreigners' exclusive entitlement to subsidised international education, and objects to international schools' admission of "local children who can go to [Direct Subsidy Scheme] DSS schools" which "are intended to serve locals".

He alleges that local and international schools offer different curricula to prepare students for different examinations, without explaining why they differ. In fact, local and international schools are comparable, and the results of different public exams are recognised by foreign and local universities for common admission purposes.

Local students prefer international education because the public exams taken by international schools are easier in content and grading compared with local exams. In 2008, Britain's National Recognition Information Centre rectified the unfairness and recognised that a Hong Kong C grade was equivalent to a British A. When Mr Cheung represented the education profession in the legislature, he was complicit in the injustice of making local exams unnecessarily harsh.

He rails against international schools' long waiting lists, which reflect great local demand for international education, but he also incongruously asserts that "the public will be upset to see international schools built for locals".

Mr Cheung treats local students as captive customers to support local teachers' employment. He wants difficult exams to give local education the appearance of a high standard and needs stringent grading to facilitate allocation of local universities' limited places. His crony democracy renders him unable to consider measures to raise local teachers' standards. He is blind to the need for fair competition in education.

Pierce Lam, Central