ESF - English Schools Foundation

Letters to the Editor, November 18, 2012

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 3:49am

Hard-working expats add vitality to city

In his column Jake van der Kamp says expatriates who can't afford to send their children to an expensive international school should go home ("ESF sense of entitlement an antiquated school of thought", November 11). Hong Kong would lose nothing, he says.

I have no children, but I beg to differ.

The authors of our "Asia's world city" brand line rightly identified Hong Kong's international qualities as its most marketable asset - and that includes people.

The world is globalising fast and places that are ahead of the curve - cities like London, New York and yes, Hong Kong - should be looking to stay in pole position.

Hong Kong's army of expat teachers, journalists, artists, designers, barmen and bloggers may not earn the salaries needed to fund their kids through an expensive education, but they're a key part of what keeps this city ahead of world-city wannabes like Singapore and Shanghai.

Hard-working expatriates with real lives add colour and vitality to the city in ways that corporate number crunchers never will. Why, having placed itself at the vanguard of globalisation in Asia, would Hong Kong want to go backwards by losing these people?

We should find ways to keep them here. Otherwise Hong Kong moves a step closer to becoming just another Asian city.

Mark Regan, Lamma


ESF boss has outstanding track record

As a former member of the English Schools Foundation's board of governors, I was surprised to read comments questioning Heather Du Quesnay's achievements during her time as the ESF's chief executive and doubting her commitment to the continuing ESF subsidy ("ESF chief to retire as subsidy row drags on", November 12).

Since Ms Du Quesnay took charge of the foundation at a time of turmoil in February 2005 her achievements have been extraordinary. She rebuilt confidence in the ESF as an educational institution and shored up ESF finances with a variety of measures, including initial cuts to teachers' pay, so it is especially surprising to read the refrain about excessive teacher pay repeated yet again in your report. The uncertainty about the continuation of the ESF subsidy is due to government intransigence and nothing else.

Most important, during Ms Du Quesnay's tenure the ESF has established itself as a global leader in education.

She and her team - including a dedicated teaching staff - have switched from the British A-level system to the International Baccalaureate (IB). Since this transition four years ago, ESF scores for the IB have been well above the global average. ESF's record of internationally recognised academic excellence is an underappreciated asset for Hong Kong.

More significantly, looking forward, it is dispiriting for those of us who care about Hong Kong that the government does not appear to believe that ESF students deserve the same sort of support as students in local schools, despite the fact that almost half of ESF students are Hong Kong Chinese and more than two-thirds of them are from families that are permanent residents.

Mark L. Clifford, Mid-Levels 


Solar project should be first of many

I refer to the report ("Sun and wind power Sai Kung island", October 31).

I welcome this project implemented by CLP Power to meet the power needs of residents on Town Island, Sai Kung, with the installation of solar panels and wind turbines.

This make sense given the island's location and distance from urban areas, which would make it expensive to link it to the main grid through "submarine cables".

The best thing is that these residents are getting the electricity they need through the use of renewable energy. Unlike fossil fuels it will never run out.

It is important to develop the technology needed to create more renewable energy projects.

I would like to see the government doing more to try to expand such projects throughout Hong Kong.

Kelly Ng, Tsuen Wan


China's power a problem for minnows

With the American administration settling down to tackle its many domestic problems, it will be interesting to see whether its foreign policy, particularly dealing with the campaign rhetoric about China, will be sensible and pragmatic. This was nicely spelled out by Martin Murphy, who said the US does not intend to try to "contain" China ("Beijing jumping at shadows in America's policy for Asia", November 15).

As he rightly points out, it's the Southeast Asian countries that are now wary of China's heavy-handed territorial claims, which have unsettled the region.

He says that while Beijing "may prefer to see shadows of a non-existent [US] containment policy, its own new assertiveness in the region is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy as its Asian neighbours seek their own regional rebalancing in the very alliances and new ties with the US that China so opposes".

Indeed, China today presents the image of an immense octopus whose tentacles grab territories to feed its greedy maw, while the US continues to be a giant squid that squirts its Western propaganda around the region.

It will be a struggle for the minnows in their way to survive unscathed.

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau


Crying foul over Premier League deal

In a period of just six years, the Hong Kong broadcast rights to English Premier League football have flip-flopped three times between Now TV and Cable TV.

All the long-suffering football fans who then switched from Now TV to Cable TV face having to switch back, with the endless parade of installation technicians poised to besmirch living rooms all over the city once again.

I urge an appropriate ombudsman to see whether there has been any collusion.

It takes little cynicism to suspect that there might have been a handshake to encourage us consumers to have both companies' set-top boxes.

Lester Lim, Mid-Levels


Australian pension not that generous

I refer to Clive Chan's letter about Hong Kong's proposed Old Age Living Allowance ("Elderly deserve more money and to be treated with respect", November 7).

He claims that old people in Australia living on the government's old age pension can live a comfortable life.

An Australian couple aged 65 or over could receive a pension with rent assistance equivalent to about HK$9,100 per fortnight and could rent a one-bedroom unit for about HK$4,900 per fortnight.

I would think they could get by with the remaining HK$4,200 if they were careful and shopped well, but there would not be much to spare.

As for the level of respect the elderly may anticipate, Mr Chan cites his 86-year-old frail father who had to stand on an MTR train for an hour without anybody offering a seat.

In Australia it is not many years since some younger person would certainly have stood up. Today? I hope that would still happen but I am far from sure.

Mr Chan may be sure of one thing - in terms of cleanliness and efficiency the MTR offers a far better service than any rail system in Australia.

Stuart Magee, Canberra, Australia


Inflation may outstrip pay increases

I can understand that employees in Hong Kong firms want the largest possible pay rise.

By contrast, their bosses want any wage adjustment to be as reasonable as possible.

When analysing salary increases, one must examine a number of factors, such as the inflation rate and the profits that the company made.

It is common practice for any pay hike to match the percentage increase in the rate of inflation. It has been forecast that the inflation rate next year will be around 4 per cent.

However, the Confederation of Trade Unions has recommended employers agree to 6 per cent salary rises. This would certainly be great news for most employees.

I understand the confederation's role is to get the best possible deal for its members, and some employers, if they have done well, may be eager to share profits with staff. But each business is different and must make its own calculations when determining wage levels.

For instance, a firm may face rising rents and costs of materials. And unless there is a general cooling down of the whole property market there can be no guarantee that pay hikes will keep pace with inflation.

What is needed is for the government to come up with long- term strategies to tackle the problems plaguing the residential and commercial property markets.

W.H. Chan, Kwun Tong