ESF looks to tap Legco's education sector candidates to bring funding to DSS levels
Facing uncertain future, English schools group rallies parents and education-sector candidates to press for more support from government
The English Schools Foundation has asked parents to lobby for support among Legislative Council election candidates for an increase in its government funding to match the level for direct subsidy schools.
The foundation, facing doubts over the future of its existing endowment, says it urgently needs the government's assurance of continued assistance to finance the renovation of its ageing school buildings.
In a letter to parents, available on its website, it cites the case of Island School in Central, for which renovation is likely to cost at least HK$800 million.
The government, which began a review of its annual HK$283 million contribution to the ESF last summer, has yet to announce a decision.
In 2010-11, primary schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme received HK$35,200 a student, almost double the ESF figure. For secondary school students the figure was HK$43,890, or 85 per cent more than the ESF.
Government subvention for the foundation, which runs 14 primary and secondary schools, a special-needs school and four kindergartens, has been a touchy issue.
Seventy per cent of ESF students have parents who are permanent residents. Those against the subsidies say continued government support would give the foundation an unfair advantage over other, privately-run schools teaching in English, such as international schools and independent schools, which receive no funding at all.
The ESF has called on parents to write to Legco election candidates, particularly the two candidates in the education constituency - Ip Kin-yuen from the Professional Teachers' Union and Ho Hon-kuen of concern group Education Convergence - to seek support for increased funding.
ESF chairman Carlson Tong said the foundation offered high-quality, international-style English-medium education popular with local and expatriate parents. An increasing number of students - 16 per cent in 2011 - went to local universities.
The ESF board was willing to continue serving its function and to accept a service agreement with appropriate levels of regulation, provided it had the means to protect the its standards.
Former education-sector legislator Cheung Man-kwong supports incorporating the ESF into the semi-private DSS scheme, as it would improve ESF's financial accountability.
"Like other DSS schools, the ESF should reserve 10 per cent of its fee income as financial aid or scholarships for deserving students," he said.
The Education Bureau aims to give Legco a progress report on the review around the end of this year. A bureau spokesman said they would "factor the demand for English-medium education" and ESF's unique capacities.
Legco is due to debate the issue at the end of this year.