English Schools Foundation
The English Schools Foundation (ESF) operates five secondary schools, nine primary schools and a school for students with special educational needs across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. It is the largest international educational foundation in Asia.
Why ESF subsidy being phased out
I refer to the report ("ESF must provide local curriculum, Eddie Ng says", November 1) and your editorial ("Subsidise and reform the ESF", November 10).
While schools operating under the English Schools Foundation are required to operate in compliance with the relevant ordinances and regulations, we should note that, broadly speaking, the ESF is autonomous in operation and may decide on the curriculum offered, student mix as well as admission criteria and arrangements.
Like other international schools, ESF schools offer a non-local curriculum. It is not our established policy to provide recurrent subvention to schools offering a non-local curriculum. Our standing policy is to facilitate their development through in-situ expansion, redeployment of vacant school premises and allocation of greenfield sites.
In terms of curriculum offered, admission policy, governance or even fee level, ESF schools are obviously no different from other international schools. The international school sector has changed substantially over the past few decades. These changes call for a review of the ESF's subvention arrangement from a holistic perspective of the entire school system and the position of the ESF therein, taking into account arrangements for other schools that operate in a like fashion.
Some suggest providing funding to the ESF that is comparable to funding received by schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and at the same time allowing the ESF curriculum freedom. But ESF schools are different from DSS schools, which primarily offer a local curriculum and must comply with a more stringent monitoring mechanism. The two also have substantial differences in terms of curriculum, student mix, and their roles to pursue different government policy objectives.
The ESF has never been asked to adopt the DSS model including providing a local curriculum in order to qualify for any subvention. As far as we know, neither does the ESF have any intention to change its current mode of operation, mission or curriculum.
The existing recurrent subvention will be phased out in an orderly and gradual fashion in order not to prejudice the interests of the existing students admitted to ESF schools before any new subvention arrangement takes effect. The Education Bureau is open to any new and unique role that the ESF can perform in the context of the entire school system and in complementing the government's policy. As such, if there is any subvention to the ESF, it would all be based on the new and unique role of the ESF, if any.
Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Secretary for Education