ESF - English Schools Foundation

Skewed praise for ESF system

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 3:17pm

I am a International Baccalaureate (IB) educator at an international school in Hong Kong and refer to Kelly Yang's column ("Eclectic avenue", November 14). She champions support for the English Schools Foundation (ESF) subvention by attributing ESF students' IB scores to the diversity of the student body.

She reaches the conclusion by pure conjecture. To quote statistics without providing the reader with the appropriate context is misleading.

She cites South Island School students scoring an average of 36.2 points versus the worldwide average of 31.9 - but has she considered the possibility that ESF schools have selection criteria for admitting students to the IB programme? A large percentage of ESF students take alternate vocational training options of the Business and Technology Education Council and IB certificate.

ESF students routinely undertake a Computer Adaptive Baseline Test at the beginning of Year 12. In conjunction with their General Certificate of Secondary Education grades, this serves as a tool for evaluating and assessing students' potential performance in the IB diploma. Furthermore, students are also counselled on subject choices, and levels to be studied, to ensure they get the maximum number of possible points.

United World College's selection criteria are even more stringent. Applicants must undertake an aptitude test, challenge day and panel interview.

Several IB schools which are not on Ms Yang's shortlist have a different ethos - the belief that education is about providing students with opportunities to learn and realise their potential. All students are encouraged to undertake the IB diploma, achieve the best possible grades in the subjects of their choice and at the levels they are able to study them.

My biggest success stories are not the students who have the procured 7s in biology and "As" in extended essays, but struggling students who made it to the finish line.

For any comparisons to be made among schools, with regard to their IB performance, it is pertinent and necessary to consider the number of students actually undertaking the IB diploma from the entire cohort of students. Factor in the number who are permitted to study subjects of their choice despite the fact that the student's predicted grade will certainly reduce the school's IB point average. Factor in also the number of students who are counselled out from undertaking the IB programme.

Then, perhaps, one can make meaningful conclusions that are worth reading and discussing.

Anjali A. Hazari, Pok Fu Lam