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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. 


'Educational apartheid' hitting expats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 10:57am

I refer to Pierce Lam's letter ("ESF admission policy smacks of segregation", February 19).

I agree with Mr Lam's argument about segregation in Hong Kong's education system, and would even go so far as saying that this city is currently plagued by an "educational apartheid".

I share his view that the practice of offering two segregated systems of subsidised English-medium education - one for Chinese and the other for non-Chinese - is long out of date and no longer relevant in post-colonial Hong Kong.

I wish to add that, instead, we should have a "one size fits all" subsidised education system - one that accommodates everyone, whether it be local Chinese, mainland Chinese, Westerners, ethnic minorities or other foreign expatriates.

Mr Lam insists that we must respect our local schools, and further states that in Asian countries like Japan, expatriates who want public education for their children have to send them to local schools.

He even boasts about Hong Kong's local schools supposedly being "superior" to schools in Japan and in most of our expatriates' home countries.

I would like to ask Mr Lam one question. If our local schools really are so superior to schools in other places, why are we seeing so few non-Chinese members of our society sending their children to these schools?

One answer to that I can give is that local schools are reluctant to take on non-Chinese or non-Cantonese speaking children.

On the one hand, Mr Lam criticises the English Schools Foundation for promoting educational segregation, but on the other hand, he fails to acknowledge the local schools' contribution to this dilemma. So, because of this, the choice given to the city's expatriates is loud and clear: extortionate international schools, the ESF, or leave Hong Kong.

As many of us are aware, due to limited places at international and ESF schools, many expats are left with only the third choice.

As your correspondent correctly points out, we hear about expats in other cities in the region sending their children to local schools with seemingly little trouble.

I'm sure that this is another reason why many foreigners are leaving Hong Kong, as they search elsewhere in the region for better schooling opportunities for their children.

If this city is supposedly Asia's world city, why is our "superior" education system failing to adopt a similar approach to those of other parts of the world?

Andrew Nunn, Tai Po


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This article is now closed to comments

For readers of this column, name calling is okay if it could be directly linked to words and actions. Hard hitting comments to effect sometimes can be both impolite and appropriate.
When I call someone a "hate-China moron," I can document the hate sentiments from his words. Moron is applied to a person highly deficient in reason and logic.
There is plenty of evidence that "racist" name calling in these pages is a Freudian projection, that is, those calling someone by this name is likely a racist or a bigot himself.
How do you find illogicalities in writings? I am afraid the racist name callers in this column don't have a clue.
Unfortunately in the Democracy religion, we have an entitlement for free speech for hate-China morons who bow wow "racist" at reason, logic and facts.
Hear, hear
the howlings,
expressing feelings so strong, and hatred so blatant
totally ad hominem
against evidence based arguments
which they know not how to respond intelligently
too rabid and too uneducated
What may I do about rabies dogs?
Pity? Not really.
Laugh ? A bid unkind
Fools like that help me understand differences
why the inquisition, why the conquisitors, why the Opium Wars
They care only about their interests
which if they perceive threatened, they’ll do what they can
I’m interested in reasons and discussions.
They're obssessed with selfish privileges.
I shouldn’t waste my time with these (what’re they?)
Henceforth in debates,
I'd treat them as what they deserve, non-existent.
These aren't my equals
These (what’re they?) won’t in any slightest way
diminish my enjoyment of a pleasant weekend
and my continued interest in writing my opinions
ah yes pslhk probably remembers what he wrote:
SCMP Nov 22, 2008 Colonial administration's departure raises question over the need for the ESF
"In terms of social contribution, expatriates are the modern-day equivalent of Chinese railroad builders in 19th century North America. They have come and stayed because Hong Kong is the best, if not the only, place for the use of their talents. We don't need expatriates as 21st century colonialists with anachronistic privileges.
Hong Kong cannot depend on the presence of expatriates to distinguish itself from other Chinese cities. We must equip our native children with an international education so that they can serve China's need for international talent. "
You have your beliefs about double standards and some messed up view of apartheid. You see politics and nationalistic principles and fail to realize that these are children going to these schools. Children should be supported and educated weather in English, Chinese or any other language. You are right in 1 area all kids should receive financial assistance whether in public, esf or private schools. education of children is the key. Not what type f school they attend. Every system has its advantages.
I love childdren. I have no problem with ESF schoolchildren, local or foreign, receiving a "pittance" of subvention from our 1.5 trillion public savings. At SJC a subsidized Catholic school decades ago, I had witnessed firsthand how HK children destitute by Western standards rose to become world class professionals.
What I object to is the supercilious attitude of expats whose mindset still belongs to the colonial past. Pierce Lam's remark on education apartheid is most appropriate.
New York City's elite schools, Stuyvesant High and Bronx Science High, with no admissions quota for minorities are a shining example of equal opportunities in education. Decades ago, there were only a handful of Chinese children in these schools. Today Asians are 72% of Suyvesant student body and Bronx Science, 63%.
And I am not talking about just training these little geniuses to be future Nobel Prize winners. Fair competition is the way to go. Let the children's learning abilities and talents find the right class in the right kind of HK schools. Yes, we should foot the bill for all of them.
Though Ivy League schools legacy admissions still discriminate against Asians, we can learn many things from the US, all irrational anti-US sentiments aside.
No children in HK should be victimized by silly ideological disputes. Readers "bmr" and "pslhk" are galled by some white folks' attitude. But can you blame them?
pslhk Feb 22nd 2013
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.
pslhk Feb 22nd 2013
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
It seems to be universally true that illiterate, boorish and hateful people won't get along with literate ones, let alone calmly discuss something of consequence.
Given your hatred of Chinese, why do you want to live among these disgusting people? My advice is that before you could do a lot of harm to others and yourself, you should check into a psychiatric ward as soon as possible.
"Expatriates, and I have to listen to them, constantly confide that the local eduaction system is rubbish - this is pure racism and then go on to complain that the Governent doesn't do enough to give their little Johnny a good education."
Were children of these expats you're talking about to attend a competitive local school like St. Joseph's or St Paul's, their fragile self-esteem would be likely the first casualty. Just imagine, supercilious folks who constantly mock Chinese children learning by rote now witness their own wearing dunce caps in an algebra class.
dynamco and likes,
Please point out where / what are the “racist comments” you blindly attribute to Mr Lam
Failing to support malicious allegation with evidence,
your accusation is libelous and ad hominine
reflecting racism entirely of your own
unicef CRC (Article 2) prohibits the kind of language discrimination which ESF shamelessly flaunts in it admission policy. It also excludes privileged education based on the racist practice of implementing two systems of English schools, one for Cantonese –speakers and one for all others. ECHR’s decision on the Belgian case confirms this provision.
Expatriates should be grateful for the chance to enjoy HK benefits
at the low cost of local tax, and not expensive global tax

Posting on behalf of reader pslhk:
SCMP has deleted the comment which dynamco posted in 5:55 because it maliciously fabricated personal information about my son for prejudicial disclosure.
I reserve the rights to take further actions against dynamco for privacy invasion and posting fabricated disinformation.
My son never applied to any ESF or international schools. A successful engineer and award winning pianist, active in snowboarding and kayaking, he visited Bosnia twice and hosted four Bosnia high school students in a leadership program in the US. He studied Japanese in high school and university.
I have no grudge against German Swiss School which I hold in high esteem although it rejected the Form 6 application of my elder daughter who later graduated with a BS from U.C. Berkeley. She studied French in Hong Kong and in Geneva.
I did consider ESF as an option for my youngest daughter. After discussion with Jennifer Whisker, the former ceo of ESF, I never returned the application she gave me. Although accepted by a top international school, she stayed with an elite local school till matriculation. Recently she got a distinguished scholarship from Washington DC.
None of my children ever applied to any ESF school.



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