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  • Dec 29, 2014
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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. 


Letters to the Editor, February 19, 2013

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 5:26am

ESF admission policy smacks of segregation

The English Schools Foundation's intended change of its admission system is procedural and not substantive. ("ESF to end admission priority for non-Chinese speakers", February 5).

Its current admission system is designed to favour "children who do not speak Cantonese and/or read and write Chinese characters".

However, in practice, it has failed the policy objective of giving priority to non-Chinese-speakers. In the words of ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay: "It's pretty difficult to test if the child cannot speak Cantonese. We have never been able to do it. That's one of the reasons the system didn't work very well."

In order to better achieve the foundation's objective of running its schools primarily for non-Chinese-speakers, the ESF will test the children's English proficiency in stringent interviews and verify "the parents' commitment to an ESF-style English-medium education through a parental statement and interview".

Instead of bracketing Chinese-speaking applicants as auxiliary candidates to fill places not taken by non-Chinese students, ESF aims to ensure segregation more effectively by adopting a personalised approach based on subjective appraisal of applicants and their parents.

It is Ms Du Quesnay's belief that the new admission process would not reduce the number of non-Chinese students at ESF schools. In fact, it may even reduce ESF schools' Chinese enrolment.

In education, diversity means an equal opportunity to take part in different education experiences. It differs from segregation, which restricts students' education experiences according to their socio-racial backgrounds.

The ESF's intended change is not meant to rectify its divisive education policy, but to strengthen its function as a bastion of colonialism that promotes segregation and perpetrates unwarranted privileges for non-Chinese and non-residents based on perverse discrimination.

The HKSAR government must withdraw from the colonial practice of offering two segregated systems of subsidised English-medium education - one for Chinese and the other for non-Chinese.

For sustainable long-term development, we must respect our local schools and demand that expatriates who wish to partake in our city's opportunities respect the system where our own children receive their education.

In Japan, if expatriates want public education, they have to send their children to local schools. It's time expatriates in Hong Kong learned to respect our local schools which, both in language standards and in the various academic measures, are generally considered superior to schools in Japan and in most of our expatriates' home countries.

Pierce Lam, Central


Western ideas tip the scales for China

Lau Nai-keung ("New year, new world view, without the Western bias", February 15) ends his piece by saying that the snake will bring us luck.

With views such as his held by [National People's Congress] members, Hong Kong is going to need it.

His premise is that Western democracy is no good if you're hungry. There is certainly a link between hunger and governance.

I'd suggest that if people in China had the mechanism to peacefully change their rulers during the Great Leap Forward, when millions died due to mass starvation, they would have done just that.

Lau's confidence is surely based on the "three decades of unprecedented growth for China" which can almost wholly be attributed to the reintroduction of capitalism to China - something that would have been roundly condemned by members of the NPC just a few years before.

Sounds like ideas honed by the West aren't so bad after all.

Chris White, Sai Ying Pun


Street adverts making a mess of Mong Kok

It was my understanding that the pull-up advertising screens which plague Sai Yeung Choi Street South and now Nelson Street in Mong Kok had been made illegal. Am I mistaken?

Pedestrians now have the absurd and annoying inconvenience of being forced into narrow channels by the advertisers, in what is one of the most congested areas in Hong Kong. Money seems to trump people in this city.

One recent evening, I saw that one advertiser had blocked off at least half of the already narrow Sai Yeung Choi street, near Argyle Street.

If they aren't illegal, they should be, as they block or restrict public thoroughfares. If they are in fact illegal, who is supposed to be enforcing their removal?

Jeff Mein Smith, Mong Kok


Nationalise tunnel to ease traffic gridlock

I would like to respond to Albert Cheng's column on the problems of our mass transport system and his suggestion on how to tackle it ("Let government run Hong Kong's transport system", February 15).

Traffic is indeed a big problem. Central, Wan Chai and Hung Hom are often congested, and I think the congestion around the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is the main culprit.

Activists say the government is wholly responsible for the mess, but giving it full control of mass transport without giving room for [private] operators is too radical. Nevertheless, the government plays a big role. Transport secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung insists the government is on the right track to shift traffic from the Cross-Harbour Tunnel to the Eastern Harbour Tunnel [by reducing the toll in the latter].

He stands firm on not adjusting tolls at the Western Harbour Tunnel - the only one with traffic three times below its expected capacity.

New transport infrastructure has done nothing to relieve traffic congestion. It is reforms that are desperately needed.

There are a few options available to the government. The first suggestion is constructing the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and improving the Kwun Tong Bypass. But the gamble may be more of a loss, as the project will cause a lot of pollution.

Some protesters suggest diverting cars from the two saturated tunnels to the convenient, but pricey western tunnel. I believe this is the most appropriate solution.

I agree with Cheng that the government should nationalise the Western Harbour Tunnel to dramatically reduce toll fees and allow more people to use it.

Look at the MTR, which has kept fares affordable for all citizens. Why can't the government do the same in the highway system?

Jackie Lo, Tsuen Wan


Why the long wait for traffic solutions?

I refer to the report ("Options to cut jams at tunnel revealed", February 9).

I am hopeful that all the talk about tackling our air and roadside pollution problems are more than just talk, because we have heard all this before.

But it does seem that the Environmental Protection Department and government are more serious this time.

Still, I am concerned about a statement made by Transport and Housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung that the measures could be in place by the second half of next year. Why such a long time?

After the three-month consultation is completed, why do we need to wait another year before implementing the measures?

Also, truck drivers oppose any increases [to tolls at certain tunnels]. I assume others will, too. So if they protest, will the government - as usual - back down? I hope not. I hope this government will finally show some courage and backbone, unlike prior administrations.

I am looking forward to a response from the relevant authorities.

Terry Scott, Sha Tin


Dog abuser deserves long jail sentence

It is absolutely disgusting for a magistrate to give Mok Chung-ting a mere eight months in jail for savagely setting his dog on fire ("Man jailed eight months for setting pet dog on fire", February 15). Mok should be jailed for at least a year for such extreme cruelty to one of God's creatures.

This case reminds me of the Kowloon couple who were found, last December, to have tied their dogs' mouths with the plastic strips that police use to handcuff criminals.

People who don't want to hear barking have no right to keep pet dogs, it's that simple.

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau


No sympathy for noisy dogs in village

The magistrate who sent a man to jail for eight months because he set fire to a dog admonished the defendant for cruelty to "man's best friend".

Obviously, the magistrate has never been kept awake night after night by incessant barking and the refusal of the owner to do anything about it. Man's best friend quickly becomes man's worst nightmare.

As a victim of a neighbour's dog that barks throughout the night, I fully sympathise with the man who set fire to the noisy mutt. If my neighbour's dog were to spontaneously combust, there would be no tears shed in our village.

Greg Knowler, Sai Kung


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This article is now closed to comments

I do not work for ESF. I have stopped replying to your mindless diatribes because you don't have a clue what you're talking about and are only interested in abuse.
You make a good point that ESF fees are beyond the reach of many non Cantonese speakers in our city. Of course, those fees have been forced upwards by the freezing of the government subvention. But even so it may well be the case that the ESF is not the right body to provide EMI education for many children in HK. The government needs to grasp the nettle. It's time to decide if they are going to continue to provide EMI education through ESF, or cut that organisation loose and provide a realistic and practicable alternative through the local system. They need to make a commitment to provide English language education through some means and end the current uncertainty.
You're right the Gov't. does need to promote EMI education. I think they understand, now, that this is what the majority of parents want, but unfortunately they themselves created a political hot potato when shortly after the handover they declared war on EMI and put most of their effort into promoting mother tongue education.
Given the structure of the HK economy and the opportunities available to HK school leavers I hope that those who blindly argue that English is not important from a purely political standpoint do not sabotage one of HK's key advantages.
Greg Knowler, I think nobody's forced you to live in a village. If you so dislike dogs and their barking, move to a highrise apartment block where dogs are not allowed. As for me, I hate babies crying but if I set fire to my neighbour's newborn who keeps wailing throughout the night, would you also be so symphatetic to my actions? A noise is a noise, right, and if it can't be stopped and kept you awake all night...?
bmr, thanks for the discussion
My reply will be brief because (a) I’ll have a meeting this morning (b) nothing requires urgent resolution.
Declaration of self-interest: I’m half Cantonese; children speak Cantonese, Mandarin, English and another foreign language. There is no question of being linguistically “Chinese” chauvinistic.
Nothing in your arguments is unanticipated. English being a common medium of communication is well recognized. As Peter Lok, former aviation head noted, English is spoken in Airbus Industrie.
Proportionality is the issue.
The colonial practice of segregated language education is disgusting and should be criminalized.
1) Sure HK's economy is reliant on China. This has been the case for many years. So then we need to look at who the main trading partners of China are. Now we could start at the top of the list and argue that its the USA and then go further down the list and cite other non-native English speaking countries, but whether we like it or not the universally accepted language is English. In order for HK school leavers to benefit from China's economic might they need to be able to offer something extra to the rest of China.
2) HK is sometimes too open to accepting foreigners into the workforce. The type of foreigners now entering the workforce in Hong Kong are not the same as of old. These new entrants are invariably fluent in English and Mandarin. There should be no argument that our students should be fluent in Mandarin, but they should also be able to hold their own in English.
3) I discovered many years ago, on study and teaching trips to China that the authorities there are much more dedicated, more clued in, on the importance of their youngsters mastering English.
4) The natural language in Hong Kong is Cantonese. I am sorry to say that this has largely lost its place as a language of importance in the business world outside of Hong Kong.
5) China has overtaken Hong Kong because of confused Gov't policies or should we say an absence of focus. The Government needs to seriously consider where it sees Hong Kong in twenty years time and plan for this.
I personally believe that we should be focusing on language as a method of, not just communication, but also opening up the eyes of our youngsters to the world outside, that includes the rest of China (which sadly many of our students know so little about). And we should be focusing on Mandarin and English. Sorry Cantonese, but...
Let’s have an open (apolitical) discussion
What do you mean by
“given HK’s economic structure and opportunities for school leavers”?
a) HK economy is predicated on China. If English were that important, HK’s opportunities would have migrated to Belfast and Detroit.
b) I agree with JvdK who holds that it’s unwise to (over) emphasize English as most jobs require nothing more than asking customers “coffee or tea” or responding with “yes sir”. Market force works well enough to allocate resources.
c) Given HK’s social circumstances, >80% of local students will never be fluent in spoken English. Even graduates, say >70% of them, never need to use English after graduation. Much better to teach them how to better operate their natural language for realistic purposes.
d) De-emphasize English may actually lead to better English standard like it is in Europe where it isn't promoted as a necessary tool for success.
e) China will overtake HK if HK pursue the red herring of “good English”
while mainland students emphasize operating skills of the natural language for practical applications.
Why is ESF silent?
What happens to its collective intelligence,
from supposedly reputable connections
academic, diplomatic, professional, alumni and employees?
All it got to speak for its kind of "education"
are people with the caliber of rsallan, IRDHK, and stonecrest
As usual, ESF seems ideas deficient,
its purpose rotten, and its irrational assertions
depleted by repetition over this fundamental issue
Leaving in its wakes, only gimmickry pretension
Some from HK’s real international schools
may sue ESF for stomach aches, from over-laughing
I’ve had disagreements with bmr’s comments over different issues
But this reader’s comments consistently show a standard
in argument, context and style that is highly admirable.
Evidence of such respectable quality in a Band 3 school teacher,
should make one wonder: What happens to pricey ESF?
Who may be so bigoted as to blindly discriminate against local schools?
* * *
- file closed-
Interestingly revealing
Nothing and no one else
other than a bored housewife like parrot
repeating an irrelevant two-line script
Thanks anyway,
for a closing comment which
I disagree but recognize that
not simply escape and disappear
shows your sense of responsibility
In a way, that's respectable.
Yet the kind of bigotry you so proudly exhibit
shows that people's mental ability varies
Yours an unfortunate case of
being in a wrong place / time



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