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New ESF debenture scheme will hit middle classes hardest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 3:46am

Middle-class families will be the hardest hit by the English Schools Foundation's new HK$500,000 debenture scheme, a parent group said.

The move would "for sure and 100 per cent" affect middle-class parents, Hong Kong Parents Association secretary Henry Chan Sing-tat said.

"They may have been able to afford it before, but now they won't - or they'll be really stretched," he said.

Under the scheme announced yesterday, parents who pay the HK$500,000 will gain priority placement for children if they meet ESF admission requirements and pass interviews.

Chan said the association opposed paying to ensure a school place or to move up in priority, but the decision was a business call, and his group could not comment on business decisions.

"In our opinion, education and school placement should not involve money - apart from school fees," Chan said.

"Money should never be a factor in whether a child gets a spot or not. It should be based on ability and other assessments."

The chairman of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations of Hong Kong Eastern District Raymond Jao Ming said the debenture would make ESF schools unaffordable for some parents.

"Only the upper classes will have enough money and this will definitely only further divide the rich and the poor," he said.

Jao said ESF schools' interactive and lively teaching methods were attractive to local parents, but now many of them might not be able to afford them.

A government spokeswoman said the government was reviewing its funding policies with the foundation concerning "ESF schools' important position in Hong Kong's education system".

The government would also take into consideration needs of expatriates' children in Hong Kong, and continue to hold discussions with the ESF.

"We noticed that [the debenture] is to fund school improvement projects at ESF schools, which will ultimately benefit students," an Education Bureau spokeswoman said.

The government "will not micro-manage ESF's day-to-day operations", but it would call on the ESF to give out clear details of the debenture policy to parents.


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I would'nt say that the last word is spoken yet. I think the ESF is playing hard ball just to get from the government what it wants. More money and resources. Until now all negotiations failed but with increasing the depenture to a level - crazy - higher than many high level private schools even the German Swiss it makes its' point. Of course HK needs the ESF to suit many expatriates living with their families in HK and I am sure now the government will be more willing to compromise. I am a manager of a local company and we are employing some expatriates from abroad here. With the increase of the depenture I am sure we will think twice to hire again and if, only childless expats.
This debenture scheme exacerbates the significant problem of the decreased ability of expats to contribute to Hong Kong's economy. Expats who do not get the rare expat deals (paid housing/schooling) are daily determining they cannot afford to move to Hong Kong and to contribute their expertise to institutions in Hong Kong. Many institutions need international perspectives and expertise, but often do not have the financial ability to provide the education for employees’ dependents. And they do not have the obligation. It is the government’s responsibility to provide education to resident children, but it is less than responsive to the needs of the demographic of families that do not speak Chinese. The government is not fulfilling its duty to provide 12 years of education to its English-speaking resident children. Meanwhile, expats pay the same tax rate as all other Hong Kong residents— pay the same, but get less. I would argue that ESF should have more subvention than it currently has: the ESF system should get the same funding per student that a public school gets. Every child deserves a top notch education so that they can reach their potential, regardless of the financial background of their parents, regardless of language spoken. The benefits of having the ESF system at a more affordable level for families is that it fills the gap between the very expensive private international schools and the public schools (which are highly rated but taught in Cantonese).


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