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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 9:03pm

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
Mr. Lam makes a very good point in arguing for the desegregation of schools in Hong Kong. It is not only our elite schools that offer EMI education, there are also some Band 3 schools who are either EMI or offer EMI streams.
There really wasn't ever in the history of Hong Kong a need to set-up the ESF because of a lack of resources available for non-Chinese speakers. The whole premise on which the ESF was founded was false. In reality it was founded to separate the children of foreigners from local Chinese children. Since the handover the ESF has now moved away from this model towards trying to portray itself to different audiences in different ways. To the local population and the Gov't it tries to sell itself as being a leader in EMI schooling. To the foreign community it tries to sell itself as an International School.
The subsidies should end. The needs of students should not be ignored, but I am sure that only a small minority of students will be affected should the ESF close altogether. The ESF does not help ordinary non-Chinese speaking minorities, such as those who are ethnically Pakistani or Nepali. These people, unfortunately do not generally have the financial resources to attend the ESF.
Please note; I currently teach in a CMI Band 3 school that offers an EMI stream. Previously I taught for 12 years in an EMI school and prior to that I taught in a low cost 'International College' where the majority of students were from Pakistan or Nepal.
after Greenspan, your pretentious self importance is laughable
Serious minded discussion can't avoid reference to
EU's decision on the Belgian case
and UN convention on minority rights
Resident native English speaking children have no right to special treatment
They should attend the local school in their neighborhood
Minorities have the obligation to learn the language of their host country
For HK's sustainable development, there is no place for fools
who mistake dying colonial privileges as HK's uniqueness
I agree with honkiepanky’s observation that “the purported benefits of having so many foreign companies here are somewhat overrated”. The right kind of expatriates for HK is that who won't compete unfairly for our public resources.
See how well expatriates behave in Japan and continental Europe? If they want subsidized education, they send their children to local schools, learn in the local language and follow local syllabus. No expatriate there dares to ask for subsidized preferential education in English.
HK students in local Chinese or English medium schools have no problem to continue tertiary education abroad. Why are HK's expatriates afraid of local schools?
It corrupts our society’s moral fiber if we don’t correct the misunderstanding of some expatriates who, as beneficiaries of HK’s generosity, act ungratefully as if they were the benefactors.
End of discussion today
The suggestion that ESF schools are full of expatriate children, here for a short visit, sponging off the Hong Kong taxpayer is ludicrous. As I stated earlier, 44% of the students are ethnically Chinese, 21% are Caucasian. Furthermore, 70% of students at ESF schools are permanent residents.
Hong Kong has a unique and complex history. There is a tradition of English in this city, one which most people see as worth preserving for the sake of international competitiveness. It is not unreasonable for English speaking, tax-paying, permanent residents of this city to expect some government contribution towards educating their children in English. Whether the ESF subvention is the best way to achieve that goal may be debated. But that would be a debate for serious minded people, who want the best for all of Hong Kong's people. So I don't see you being part of that debate, as your idea of a "discussion" seems to be hurling racial abuse.
If you're really worried about the "moral fiber "(sic) of this city, then I suggest you stop peddling prejudice and look at the facts before sounding off.
Serious minded?
Read your own first paragraph
Why must you evade my repeated comment on your second sentence?
Why don't you compare the first and the last sentences
and account, as I've repeatedly commented, to
the conspicuous 30%?
Is it mental deficiency or prejudice?
That could also be the cause of the "hurling racial abuse" you imagine
Describing colonialism isn't racist,
colonial mentality and practice is racist
The comments of presumably expatriates show deterioration of the already inferior quality of post-colonial filths and the likes.
honkiepanky: who is saying that being “regional hubs for foreign multinationals and their expatriate staff” means subisdized preferential education for foreign nationals? Find us in reality “a regional hub” that fits your dream.
rsallen: You emphasize facts but have evaded the real, present, and salient facts I’ve raised, clinging blindly to your own falsities.
How would you reconcile the statistical discrepancy between 21%/44% of ESF and 2%/94% of reality?
Why “almost half the students in these schools be Chinese”? – because ESF needs them to fill vacancies, especially in the upper forms, in order to beg public funding.
ESF may wish to show us comparative application / admission rates of the races; and students mix in different grades and districts.
Why single out Cantonese-speaking applicants?
How would you account for ESF’s 35% non-Caucasian, non-Chinese students against their 4% demography (FDHs included)?
You have also evaded all the compelling facts in Pierce Lam’s letter
stonecrest, you’ve shown us your moral foundation, pegging your respect on the few officials who use remnant colonial perk to send their children to schools abroad, children who could have been in ESF schools if not excluded for being Cantonese-speaking; you're a smarty fixating on a rotten tree and oblivious of the healthy forest
Someone is a little oversensitive.
I have no dog in this fight (no kids) and as far as I'm concerned all the expatriates can all go home and leave better housing for me. Personally I think the purported benefits of having so many foreign companies here are somewhat overrated.
But if the government is going to put effort into attracting foreign companies' offices here it had might as well do it right. Which means providing access to English language education. Expecting expatriates to send their kids to Cantonese school is not realistic. Private international schools are fine but 1) there are not enough spaces, and 2) what's the problem with subsidizing English language education? Isn't all public education subsidized?
HK's foreign investment policy is like its tourism policy, which seems to consist of attracting tourists but not bothering to build infrastructure needed to service the demand, the end result being spiraling rents and little meaningful new economic activity.
Maybe the expatriates would respect the local schools more if the Civil Servants were not given allowances to take their children out of the local school system and send them abroad for their education.
Would IRDHK who mentions “a weird view of education” let us know where else in the world could we find the ESF kind of language discrimination in subsidized education.
IRDHK and the like should also petition against Obama’s requirement that immigrants in the US must learn English.
Would any EU countries in continental Europe offer subsidized English-medium education preferentially for foreign nationals in their own countries?
Now who is being funny and weird?
The U.S. and Europe do not have pretensions to be regional hubs for foreign multinationals and their expatriate staff. Perhaps HK should not either -- but we can't have it both ways.
rsallen’s data: 21% Caucasian, 44% Chinese
should be viewed in the realistic context where
the city’s population is ~ 2% Caucasian and ~ 94% Chinese
Perhaps ESF should reveal statistics of applicants and admissions
What if
the 21% Caucasian students represent 98% admission of Caucasian applicants
and the 44% Chinese students represent 8% admission of Chinese applicants?
One-sided statistics can be misleading
If ESF wishes to argue with statistics, it must also show students mixes in different grades and different districts
HdQ has made it clear enough that the new admission system is meant to improve the efficiency to sort out Chinese-speaking applicants. What is the purpose of sorting out Chinese-speaking applicants?
rsallen alleges to factual inaccuracies in Pierce Lam’s letters without actually pointing out any of these alleged fallacies.
rsallen also alleges to “racist rants”. Perhaps racist has a new meaning to people like rsallen in HK such that the person who points out racism is in the eyes of those who’re used to racist practice a racist.
The fact and the intention are clear. Honesty requires the focus of arguments on justifications for government subsidy for a separate system of English-medium schools to be operated preferentially for non-Chinese and non-residents.
The ESF schools teach in English. It would be harmful to the students concerned and the schools in general if students who couldn't understand the language of instruction were admitted. That is why prospective students have to demonstrate some ability in English. Their ethnicity is not a factor in admission, it is their ability to learn in the language used in the schools.
"The fact and the intention are clear. Honesty requires the focus of arguments on justifications for government subsidy for a separate system of English-medium schools to be operated preferentially for non-Chinese and non-residents. "
There is certainly a debate to be had about the future of education in Hong Kong, including the ESF. Perhaps there are other ways of providing education in English for the many permanent residents of Hong Kong whose mother tongue is not Cantonese. But the suggestion that the ESF schools operate preferentially for non-Chinese is simply wrong. If it were true, how would almost half the students in these schools be Chinese? Once again, you're making sure that the facts don't get in the way of your argument which is born of prejudice.
Why does the SCMP continue to give a platform to the ill-informed, racist rants of Pierce Lam? In his latest effort he claims that the ESF is "a bastion of colonialism that promotes segregation". This is nonsense. of the 12 932 students in ESF schools in the last academic year, only 21% were ethnically Caucasian and 44% were ethnically Chinese. That certainly does not sound like an organisation that "promotes segregation." But, of course, those are facts and, as such, they play little part in Mr Lam's arguments.
It seems that whatever nonsense Mr Lam writes, it is guaranteed to be published. His letters are invariably factually inaccurate litanies of ignorant prejudice. Every time one is published, the SCMP's reputation is damaged.
I agree that Pierce Lam has a weird view of education and seems to think that non-Chinese are somehow inferior. His view that non-Cantonese speaking kids should be forced to learn in Cantonese is weird. He does indeed appear to be racist from what he says.
However I think is it ok for SCMP to post his rants as that is the philosophy of HK to ensure that all people are able to express their views and feelings. So even though he is racist and a bit odd he still has the right to be heard. Personally I find Mr. lam kind of funny as he is so over the top you are not quite sure what he is trying to say.
It is not because Mr. Lam's views are objectionable that I would like the SCMP to publish fewer of his letters; its because his letters are incoherent, counter-factual nonsense. Its a matter of the quality of the debate, not of censoring views.
I just find it deliciously ironic that "Pierce" I-hate-the-white-man-and-am-a-proud-Chinese Lam uses the name "Pierce" in all his diatribes.
What's in a name?
At wit's end, piteously
name calling is your last trick
I don't feel your hate-the-white-man feeling in Pierce Lam's letter
which is certainly your own
I do recognize that he despises dumb and loud trash
regardless of color; and of course,
white trash sympathises with white trash


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