English Schools Foundation seeks subsidies for 1,000 new pupils
Foundation says pupils' siblings and graduates of affiliated kindergartens should be subsidised
The English Schools Foundation is asking the government to subsidise more than 1,000 children expected to be enrolled next year, after education authorities insisted on phasing out its annual HK$284 million subsidy.
Those children were siblings of current pupils or were set to enter ESF schools after graduating from affiliated kindergartens, a foundation spokeswoman said yesterday. The proposal sought to create a smoother transition as the Education Bureau weaned the ESF from the subsidy, known as a subvention, from as early as next year, she said.
She said 1,020 pupils were expected to join year 1 and another 120 would enter year 7 in August. Many would be siblings of current pupils, giving them priority for admission interviews.
ESF chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing wrote to parents recently saying these pupils, as well as those from affiliated kindergartens, should be protected as talks continued with the government on the governance of the foundation and its transition to a private international school system.
Critics say the English-language schools' management, which holds a property portfolio of at least HK$2.1 billion, must clarify how it can improve its governance in order to justify support from the public purse.
But others have described the subsidy withdrawal as an ideological campaign by the government to get rid of the schools, which have colonial roots.
"Whoever is responsible [for the policy] thinks they have to crash everything that looks colonial, and get rid of it without really serious consideration [of demand]," native English-speaking teacher Willy Ewal said.
An English teacher who is from Uganda said he expected ESF fees for his four-year-old son to be far higher than those for his daughter. His daughter studies at an ESF school in Sha Tin, after local schools rejected her because she did not speak Cantonese. "I pay tax; I expect some sort of subsidised education," he said.
Warren Shaw, chairman of the Association of Professional Teachers of ESF Schools, said the imminent cut in subvention could affect teachers' remuneration, forcing some to leave amid rising living costs.
He said he would discuss with schools and teachers how to react to the "ideological campaign" to remove the subsidies.
In March, then chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying said he "supported continued subvention" because of the ESF's unique standing in the city.
ESF parent Hans Ladegaard accused Leung of not honouring his campaign promise. "How can [a subvention cut] be possible if he just said it a few months ago? He should be held accountable."
On Wednesday, Tong said fees for new pupils might be higher from the next school year in the light of the looming cuts.