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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. 

NewsHong Kong
EDUCATION

Parents attack ESF's HK$500,000 school place reservation fee

Scrap HK$500,000 charge to reserve a school place or lose government aid, foundation told

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 5:05am

The English Schools Foundation should scrap its new HK$500,000 charge to reserve a place at its schools or lose its government subvention, parents say.

The government is due to make a decision soon on whether to continue its long-frozen, HK$283 million annual subvention for the foundation.

Under the the scheme, unveiled in September, local and overseas parents wishing to reserve a place in any age group from next year will have to pay a non-refundable HK$500,000 debenture for each child.

Christian Mueller, an ESF parent, said: "It is unreasonable for ESF to impose a HK$500,000 fee as a fast-track option for the rich, when it is running government- subsidised schools.

"ESF's justification, that it is in urgent need of additional funds to renovate ageing schools, is a statement proving poor management. As a professional organisation, they should have built up the appropriate reserves for that. Failure to do so is unprofessional and irresponsible."

The ESF chairman, Carlson Tong Ka-shing, has urged the government to raise the subvention level to that of direct subsidy scheme (DSS) schools.

Until 2000-2001, the subvention was about 30 per cent of the ESF's income, Tong said. Today the frozen subvention represents only 19 per cent of its income.

Cheung Man-kwong, a former legislator and vice-president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, insisted the HK$500,000 scheme should be scrapped as a precondition for raising the subvention.

Another parent, Karen Chan, argued for government funding for either all international schools or none, to ensure fairness, and for more English-speaking public schools.

Other contributors to the debate agreed there should be more international schools.

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This article is now closed to comments

amandanpaul
The ESF is fighting a losing battle against costs. It needs this money to provide the education we need for our children. The government needs to re-instate the subvention in full. ESF has changed massively in governance. It is complement to the local system; local parents seek the ESF approach over the local system. Expatriate parents need it to allow them to work in Hong Kong.
I contributed greatly to the tax coffers of the government long before my children started school. I would like to see the government provide my family with a return on my investment in Hong Kong.
Parents need to pressure the government on the subvention, not the ESF. It is our money the government is withholding.
pamsayang1
Subvention for English medium education is important, yes. But who should get this? ESF are no more an affordable alternative. With the introduction of HK$ 500,000.-- fees (now for 15% of the places, soon, surely, for more and more) brings ESF schools right on the same level as other expensive international schools. ESF have decided for themselves to go this way, away from a subsidized system. So who should run schools that offer affordable English medium education? I see no one on the horizon. ESF have actively closed its own doors. Should the students get it directly (as refund from the government against fees of regular international schools?
caractacus
The ESF shoots itself in the foot again instead of presenting the case for a proper subvention. The $500,000 fee to let rich kids jump the queue is morally repugnant. Wealthy parents can afford to send their children to any International or overseas school while many others can barely afford ESF fees.
The Government funded schools' record in teaching English is poor and worsening. English language medium schools wholly funded by Government are totally oversubscribed.
English is the world's common language, a vital tool for employment, business and the future of ALL Hong Kong children. So why does Government have such a down on affordable English medium teaching?
Contrary to popular prejudice, the majority of 'expats' do not get education allowances from their employers and, by the way, as a self employed Hong Kong permanent resident I am a local. I am not an 'expat' because I have white skin and was born in another country. All I ask is that the Government pays the same towards my children's education as it pays for a Chinese child in Government schools.
EDB and Legco's Education working party constantly prevaricate and delay unfreezing the subvention. Why? Is their problem that they too perceive ESF as a hotbed of spoiled 'expats' with huge allowances who don't need the subvention? Is this the reason my children, both born in Hong Kong, are being discriminated against?
Time to look in the mirror and fix the problem.
Singapore 5 : Hong Kong 0 and counting.
caractacus
The ESF shoots itself in the foot again instead of presenting the case for a proper subvention. The $500,000 fee to let rich kids jump the queue is morally repugnant. Wealthy parents can afford to send their children to any International or overseas school while many others can barely afford ESF fees.
The Government funded schools' record in teaching English is poor and worsening. English language medium schools wholly funded by Government are totally oversubscribed.
English is the world's common language, a vital tool for employment, business and the future of ALL Hong Kong children. So why does Government have such a down on affordable English medium teaching?
Contrary to popular prejudice, the majority of 'expats' do not get education allowances from their employers and, by the way, as a self employed Hong Kong permanent resident I am a local. I am not an 'expat' because I have white skin and was born in another country. All I ask is that the Government pays the same towards my children's education as it pays for a Chinese child in Government schools.
EDB and Legco's Education working party constantly prevaricate and delay unfreezing the subvention. Why? Is their problem that they too perceive ESF as a hotbed of spoiled 'expats' with huge allowances who don't need the subvention? Is this the reason my children, both born in Hong Kong, are being discriminated against?
Time to look in the mirror and fix the problem.
Singapore 5 : Hong Kong 0 and counting.
pamsayang1
ESF did not introduce a "debenture scheme" (which is a fully refundable, non interest bearing loan to the school, practiced at international schools in HKG) but a HK$ 500,000 "entrance FEE" (= money gone and not affordable to the middle class families ESF claim they are serving), which de facto makes ESF schools, already today, more expensive than most international schools in HKG (even with subsidies still in place)?
We don't need any racial or colonial discussion about who is richer or poorer. The fact is: there are too many rich people in HKG (locals and expats) who are willing to pay almost any school fee and ESF want to cash in on that. Welcome to the real world.
But if ESF can do so (increase fees like crazy and obviously endorsed by the EDB), do ESF really need any further government funding? Probably not.
Our real issue is: Does HKG need affordable English medium education and (when ESF are working towards running "regular" international schools) who would take over this part for for the middle class (locals and expats)?
typhoon88
When comparing the fees and debenture ESF to other non subsidized international school I can't see a lot of difference. So where is the subvention goes to? It makes more the impression that ESF did mismanagement for years.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against subvension but it should be the HK$283 million should be for all international school not just ESF.
florenceb
As a single parent of 2 daughters currently in ESF school, I do believe that the subvention should remain. I have been paying taxes for over 20 years to support Hong Kong & there are not many options when it comes to English schooling. The question is if the subvention is raised to the old level of 30%, would the parents see the benefit with lower school fees or will this be added to the school coffers & cover teachers & other staffs salary's increament which are above inflation? As for the $500,000 debenture, well this is Hong Kong and this is how International school are running in the city. Get real.
joyalsofi
Rather than addressig the merits of the reservation fee, this article and headline give inaccurate information because the presumption of the headline is that a large group of parents, perhaps all of them are opposed to the charge. In reality only one parent is quoted as clearly against this charge. Quoting two parents would make it grammatically correct but still misleading.
schnuked
Your argument would be valid if you can you find 2 parents that support the "reservation fee"?
What is the reporter supposed to do? Interview every parent about the fee? Whichever way you cut it, having a reservation fee will do more harm than good for local parents who want there children to be taught under the ESF system. Expats, and I do know from experience, can get this fee paid by their firms. I am not saying all Expats are entitled to this advantage, but quite a number are.
Asides from the old "local vs. expat" argument, this can be looked at as another example how Hong Kong is further widening the rich-poor gap, though I won't elaborate further as this should be painfully obvious.
Come on ESF, do you really want to be a party to this? I am an ex-ESF student, and it really disheartens me how the ESF increasingly employs policies that go against their stated values. What happened to openness, fairness and equal opportunity? I guess that is just the hypocrisy that ESF is famous for these days.
 
 
 
 
 

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