ESF - English Schools Foundation

Letters to the Editor, April 6, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 4:02am

Kai Tak land best used for flats, not arena

The proposal to build a sports complex at the Kai Tak site has proved to be controversial.

I think if a new sports complex is to be constructed in Hong Kong, the location should be changed.

There has been a growth in the city's population and this presents problems given the limited land supply that creates a housing shortage. Some analysts say the land at Kai Tak earmarked for a sports complex could provide up to 25,000 flats.

There is a better chance of harmony in a society if the basic housing needs of its citizens are met. Also, there is greater demand for homes in this city than for recreational sports venues.

Although constructing a world-class stadium could enhance Hong Kong's reputation and boost tourism, the need for this facility is not as urgent as the need for additional flats.

We already have sports stadiums and complexes of different sizes on Kowloon side and Hong Kong Island, in places such as Kowloon Park, Causeway Bay and Aberdeen.

I hope that the government will change its position on the planned project and recognise that increasing the supply of housing in Hong Kong is more important than meeting the people's recreational needs.

Rachel Wong Wing-fung, Hung Hom


Urgent action needed over plight of apes

The illegal wildlife trade is threatening the survival of the world's great apes, according to a United Nations report.

Large numbers of chimpanzees have been captured and bought for displays in private gardens and zoos.

I find it immoral that people should think it is acceptable to capture these wild animals, put them in cages and deprive them of their freedom. To be confined in this way is a torment for them. If the rate of hunting keeps increasing, some species will face extinction.

The UN report said that over seven years, up to 2011, it is estimated that more than 22,000 great apes have been traded illegally.

Governments around the world must step up efforts to curb this illegal trade. Surely more can be done to crack down on the traders. The animals should be released and, where possible, returned to their natural habitats.

Lucy Lui Lo-hei, Tsuen Wan


Real numbers prove ESF's invaluable role

Pierce Lam tries to baffle us with statistics ("Why officials should end ESF subsidy", April 2), but the fact is that English is an official language of Hong Kong and there is significant demand for quality education in English.

If, as seems to be the case, the government intends to stop funding the English Schools Foundation (ESF), it needs to offer something significantly better than the "designated schools" scheme.

The maximum grant under this scheme is HK$600,000 per annum per school to help non-Chinese-speaking students. That's not much money, and it is paid to a grand total of five secondary schools in the New Territories (with two operating under the Direct Subsidy Scheme and charging fees) and only three in Kowloon (with two in the DSS scheme). That doesn't seem like much progress after seven years of the designated school scheme.

Mr Lam apparently believes that the problem is that the government is short of money and argues that the reallocation of the ESF subvention would fund the expansion of the scheme. This is misleading.

If parents cannot afford to pay ESF fees (or don't want to pay for their children's schooling) and opt instead for a designated school, it will cost the government significantly more than the subvention that is currently paid to the ESF.

Mr Lam brushes aside criticism of designated schools by highlighting one student who is happy in his school and uses that to accuse Betty Bownath ("Segregation still confronts ethnic students", March 22) of misunderstanding The New York Times article to which she referred. I would be amazed if anyone reading it online, apart from Mr Lam, could not understand that the government is using the designated schools scheme to segregate non-Chinese students.

I think we all know that Pierce Lam's main purpose is to attack the ESF. The new admissions policy is more logical, and it seems excessively petty-minded to object to preference being given to siblings and children of alumni. This is a common practice in other schools, and will only account for a tiny percentage of admissions.

Apparently Mr Lam will only be satisfied when ESF schools have 96 per cent local Chinese, and I will leave others to judge whether that would make sense.

Chris Tringham, Sha Tin


Seeing need for 'sleeping policeman'

I refer to the letter by P. Kevin MacKeown ("Bicycles with batteries can help elderly", April 1).

A few minutes after I finished reading it, I witnessed an accident. A van was approaching the roundabout in Mui Wo from South Lantau Road. It meant to turn left onto Ngang Kwong Road, but completely misjudged the manoeuvre and went straight over onto the opposite pavement, injuring a pedestrian.

Surely this incident makes it all the more necessary to have a "sleeping policeman" on the approach to the roundabout as suggested by your correspondent.

Andrew Renaud, Lantau


Learning tours price out poor students

I understand that some universities are trying to persuade Form Four and Five students to join their summer camps, with fees ranging from about HK$1,500 to HK$5,400.

How can grass-roots families afford to pay these sums?

Nowadays, students need to show other-learning experience to get into a university, and parents try their best to ensure their children get that experience.

In this regard, these summer camps, and also learning tours, help give youngsters an idea of what they will be studying.

The cost is no problem for rich parents, but for poor parents it poses a serious obstacle. Learning tours can broaden a student's horizons. But, for example, a five-day learning tour to Australia would cost at least HK$21,000.

This would be equivalent to three months' salary for some low-income families.

The government should increase funding in this area of education so that children from low-income families can attend these summer schools. It should not forget the grass-roots families.

Amanda Au, Sau Mau Ping


HK forgetting its medicinal traditions

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a centuries-old science which should be seen as something special in Hong Kong, and hence should be nurtured.

It is inextricably linked with nature and can be of great help to Hongkongers.

Yet, the debate over calls by Baptist University to launch a TCM teaching hospital would indicate that the government does not seem to appreciate the importance of this branch of medicine. Instead it wants to use the site of the former Lee Wai Lee campus for a luxury residential development.

Many Hong Kong citizens seem to rely too much on Western medicine. If they feel unwell, they go to their general practitioner. The thinking is that they would rather be given yet more medication.

There are simple health rules to follow, such as eating less meat and more vegetables. Yet, as I say, when people feel unwell, rather than thinking it might be due to an unhealthy lifestyle, they think they can solve the problem by taking more pills, that is, more chemicals. They might feel better in the short-term, but the root cause of the problem remains.

A TCM hospital, given TCM's links to nature, would be good for the community. It would help encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles.

Sarah Kong, Sha Tin


Net addiction makes iWatch a bad idea

I recently a watched an item on BBC News about a possible Apple iWatch.

In recent years, electronic technology has been developing at such a fast pace that, now, thanks to smartphones and tablets, we no longer have to rely on our desktop computers to surf the internet.

I have to admit that the invention of the iPhone has had a global impact.

People are predicting we will eventually see Apple releasing an iWatch.

I have my doubts about this. Smartphones are very convenient. You can play lots of games, edit documents and download unlimited apps. I don't think there would be any point in buying a "smartwatch" if it basically offered similar functions as the iPhone, especially given the obviously smaller display.

I also wonder if another device is a good thing. You already see people poring over their iPhones and communicating less through face-to-face conversation.

People may be sitting at the same table yet use the social network to chat with each other. Also, some individuals have become addicted to their computers and use them everywhere, even when they are in the toilet.

Maybe we are not yet ready for computers you can wear.

Ervin Chiu Ho-man, Tsuen Wan