ESF - English Schools Foundation

Letters to the Editor, March 28, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 3:30am

So many drivers flout idling ban

The Hong Kong Motor Vehicle Idling (Fixed Penalty) Ordinance was implemented on December 15, 2011.

It makes it illegal to idle your engine for more than three minutes from that date, subject to a fixed fine of HK$320.

The idling engine ban is overseen by the Environmental Protection Department and mainly enforced by traffic wardens under the control of the Hong Kong police.

Environmental protection inspectors are also empowered to enforce the ban.

Sad to say, this idling engine ban and its enforcement can only be described as an utter and complete failure.

In my contacts with the department, a staggering fact was revealed.

In the first year the ban was in effect, law enforcement staff (traffic wardens, police and environmental protection inspectors) timed a total of 1,200 vehicles with idling engines and seven of those drivers timed - or 0.6 per cent - were fined.

Roadside air pollution in Hong Kong is getting worse, and it does not take a genius to realise that the local habit of idling engines without caring about anything or anyone else is a major contributor.

Despite it being illegal, on any given day, anywhere throughout Hong Kong, you see long lines of cars, vans and trucks parked (mostly illegally), idling their engines like there's no tomorrow - bosses' cars waiting for the big guy's three-hour lunch to end, delivery vans and trucks with drivers eating lunch or sleeping inside. And you see regular people just sitting around in their cars.

The common factor is a total disregard for the law, in a city where people pride themselves on having rule of law and being much more sophisticated than their cousins north of the border.

Clearly the enforcement of the ban is not working.

I could probably myself fine more than seven drivers on my lunch break, and still have time for a sandwich.

So I ask what the Environmental Protection Department, the Hong Kong Police Force and the government are going to do about these people choking our city.

Johan Olausson, Sheung Wan


Good hygiene habits are slipping in city

There have been calls by some correspondents for a return to the thorough Sars-era hygiene habits in Hong Kong.

The tenth anniversary of the Sars epidemic passed recently.

It should remind us of how tough things were for citizens during this health crisis and the difficult lessons that were learned from that experience.

Those patients who survived still bear the scars of their ordeal.

What happened during the Sars outbreak should not be forgotten and it is still relevant 10 years on.

People adopted good hygiene habits, such as washing their hands regularly, especially after sneezing and at home.

However, many citizens have forgotten these important personal hygiene rules that 10 years ago almost became second nature.

Disease can spread in a hectic city like Hong Kong with so many people crowded together.

This can lead to loss of life and can be very damaging to the economy.

All Hongkongers have a duty to co-operate and ensure hygiene standards are high.

Gong Hoi-ting, Tseung Kwan O


Pretty to look at, but bad for environment

It is common to see products in stores in Hong Kong with a lot of packaging.

Often it is very attractive and is designed to draw the attention of consumers so they are tempted to purchase the product.

But while it might look good, excessive packaging is wasteful. In fact you cannot guarantee the quality of a product that is heavily packaged, because you can't unwrap it until after your purchase.

So much plastic is used and this is not environmentally friendly. It is a greener and more economical option to have items for sale which have light wrapping.

Hong Kong shoppers need to be more environmentally aware. They need to realise that the quality of a product is more important than purchasing something that is wrapped in a lot of plastic.

Nicole Lai, Sau Mau Ping


ESF teachers' salary freeze not the answer

It is sad, but expected, to see the debate on the fee increases announced by the English Schools Foundation last week.

It is sad because the same old arguments are peddled about ESF financial mismanagement; sad because fee increases punish the many middle-class parents who save to send their children to outstanding schools; and sad because many fail to see that cost increases are directly related to the freezing and then withdrawal of the government subvention.

Hong Kong must recognise that the ESF provides a world-class education at a comparatively low cost. The reason for this world-class status is the quality of teachers that ESF attracts and hopefully retains to teach outstanding students. Yet an undue burden is falling on these world-class teachers.

They will receive a salary increase of 3.5 per cent next year. But what many will not notice in the feeding frenzy of ESF criticism is those teachers' salaries have declined 20 per cent since Heather Du Quesnay arrived as chief executive of the ESF.

Perry Bayer is correct in noting that this increase is disastrous for struggling parents ("Anger over 'disastrous' plan to raise ESF fees", March 21). But the answer does not lie in the recommended action from education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen for tiny cost saving, nor does it reside in freezing teachers' salaries.

Already ESF teachers and students operate in schools struggling for maintenance, with some needing replacing.

The answer must come from the government. It must find some way to support those families who choose to send their children to private schools.

Many governments abroad provide some subsidy for all schools, recognising the community benefit from good education. Some offer generous tax concessions, recognising the cost saving to taxpayers of privately funded education.

What must be recognised now is that the ESF will keep lifting its fees to pay excellent teachers commensurate salaries and to provide decent quality schooling facilities for deserving students.

There is an equation that Harry may like to place on his blackboard cartoon (March 21): World-class student results = world-class teachers + world-class salaries.

Warren Shaw, chairman, the Association of Professional Teachers in ESF Schools


Allocate more tickets for local supporters

I refer to the report about the Hong Kong Sevens ("Public will get 'even fewer' tickets next year", March 24).

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union announced that the number of tickets available for the public in 2014 will be less than the 4,000 sold for this year's competition.

I appreciate this is a major event which attracts a lot of rugby lovers, both from Hong Kong and abroad.

It makes the city a lot of money from tourism.

I also accept that when it comes to ticket availability, there is a lot of pressure on the chairman of the HKRFU.

However, the union has to try to strike the right balance when it comes to ticket sales.

As you reported, local rugby clubs are not getting enough tickets for their own members.

A colleague of mine loves the sport, and wanted just once to experience the unique atmosphere that you get at the Sevens, but he has been unable to get tickets for himself and his wife.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

I think the 45 per cent allocated last year to Hong Kong rugby clubs and the local community is meagre.

This percentage ought to be raised, so that more Hong Kong rugby enthusiasts like my colleague can attend.

Although this would mean that the share for groups abroad, such as the International Rugby Board and participating teams, would be lowered, this would be a much fairer arrangement for city residents.

After all, we should not forget that it is Hong Kong that is hosting this event.

Raymond Lok, Tseung Kwan O


Banners are posing threat to passers-by

I was very happy to read Bernard Chan's letter about the nuisance that particularly the Hong Kong Youth Care Association is causing at Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier ("Banners offend locals and visitors", March 19).

I walk by there twice a day, ducking my head in order to avoid numerous banners hitting me in the eye.

The slim poles are now covered by bulky plates of wood, making it difficult to pass when crowded.

Everywhere you look, there are big white banners written in crude English warning against Falun Gong (who only have a fraction of the banners the association has).

The sight is awful and tourists must wonder what is wrong here.

It is time for the government to step up and have all this junk removed.

The banners have got out of control, and while they warn against Falun Gong disrupting society, the association does exactly that.

Mark Scholz, Lantau