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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

ESF hankers for public funding, despite Eddie Ng's comments

Foundation argues its English curriculum is valuable to all Hong Kong citizens; DSS schools teaching IB could help fight for subvention

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 4:10am

The English Schools Foundation is banking on its strengths to secure continued public funding, despite the government's plan to phase out its HK$283 million annual subsidy.

Education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim has said it is not government policy to provide subsidies to schools that offer a non-local curriculum, as the ESF does.

He also ruled out treating the foundation like direct-subsidy schools (DSS), as they are required to teach a local curriculum. But ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said yesterday that the ESF schools, with their 13,000 students, were a part of Hong Kong.

"We were established by ordinance in 1967 to offer an education in the medium of English to students who can benefit from it. That is ... not just for expatriates but for any child in Hong Kong who could speak English and wanted an English education. So our history is all about serving local people."

But she acknowledged that it would be "challenging" to get anywhere near the subvention level for DSS schools, which receive government money but operate mostly like private schools.

Both sides are now working to establish a funding level based on the ESF's specific areas of service, including special needs education, teaching of Chinese to non-Chinese speakers, continuing professional development for teachers, students' welfare - including counselling - learning technology, mother tongue support for students whose native language is not English, and applied learning.

"We will see what total amount of money that would generate," she said.

She now expects a decision to be made before the end of this academic year, contrary to expectations that a deal might be struck by the end of this year.

One factor that could influence the debate is that some DSS schools may not be required to teach the "local curriculum" - contrary to Ng's assertion.

There is now at least one exception to the rule.

Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong - a sixth-form college in Wu Kai Sha offering the International Baccalaureate - was given special permission to remain in the DSS scheme in the 2000s, after a government working group affirmed the value of its culturally diversified school environment. Currently, about 40 per cent of its students are local residents.

Other DSS schools face rising demand from students for non-local curriculums, such as the IB, Cheung Siu-ming, principal of Creative Secondary School, said.

"What is the rationale of a local curriculum?" he asked. "Any curriculum that helps students get into local universities should be good enough. The IB curriculum suits a world-class international city like Hong Kong."

He urged the government to study overseas cases, such as in Australia, where state schools can offer non-national curriculums.


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There are many good suggestions (re voucher system, tax breaks etc), most of them in the direction to ensure affordable English medium education. Our problem is: There is no such discussion in HKG. All the discussion is about ESF and their entitlement to the subvention. ESF, however, do not take up any of the valid points and options. They are very stubborn and keep saying "we are who we are, we are great" (so great they now -in their own view- can be found in the history books, right next to the stories about the Qing Dunasty), "we won't change, we won't allow any further government involvement into our affairs, we don't care about affordability" (re 500k fast track entry) etc. We must forget about ESF. They are (very unfortunately) dead with regards to offering "affordable" English medium education. We must start turning the discussions towards new forms and models of subvention. ESF won't help us. They have a different agenda. They will get their money from enough rich kids (locals and expats). We, the middle class need help....
The EdSec will increase free Chinese language schooling for Cantonese speakers to 15 years from the current 12 years- so he is taking the extra funds from the taxpayer ESF parents + giving it to the locals many of whom do not pay tax Has the EdSec thought about the consequences or are they saying, if you do not earn 100k a month we do not want you in Hong Kong ? It begs the question, what about the Government servants whose education for their children at ESF is now paid by HKG Govt? The Govt will end this funding or exacerbate it by increasing the required increased ESF fee payments to Govt servants ? How many Government servants currently send their children to ESF ? Can we presume EdSec will be sending them a memo saying the ESF loss of funding will mean they have to put their children into the local system, or they must like the rest of us, pay from their own pockets and then be taxed on the fees we pay for the schooling ?
Why does Govt not offer an income tax break on school fees ? there is no need to charge locals for free education but others‘choosing’ ESF have to pay tax on the school fees they pay. Is that fair ?
How will they recruit NETS scheme teachers who have children ?
The current system is inherently unfair especially to locally born children whose mother tongue is not Cantonese and contravenes the Rights of the Child Treaty binding HK. Tom Holland's proposed voucher- for-all system is the only equitable and fair way forward for ‘all’ children.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
What happened to ****www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm Article 28 ? which part of ‘all’ is not clear to Eddie Ng?
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:
(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;
(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;
(c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;
(d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;
Article 2
1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
read 483 onwards
Li Po Chun United World College’s international standing is real and fair. It admits foreign students selected by the national selection committees of their home countries and local Hong Kong students from those chosen by a selection committee appointed by the Home Affairs Bureau. It aims at building understanding between students from Chinese cultural backgrounds and those from the rest of the world. The College's links with other parts of China also provide opportunities for students to learn about China first hand.
In contrast, ESF’s international claim is fake. It flaunts blatant rudeness against the city’s indigenous population by perpetrating a discriminatory admission policy against Cantonese speakers, in defiance of its statutory obligation to admit without discrimination students who can benefit from liberal English education. It serves as a preverse charity to migrant workers of its preferred nationalities by rejecting children of indigenous families living next to ESF schools and paying many generations of taxes; sending them overseas to private schools.
ESF’s English curriculum and its recent shift to IB open back door for its students’ admission to the city’s universities. Diversity is good but it must be managed to avoid duplicitous practice and double standards. IB qualification is not based on standardized public exams. Universities in Hong Kong should only admit “local” applicants based on results of standardized public exams.
ESF schools have large numbers of Cantonese-speaking students. I think it rather easier for a Cantonese speaking student to attend an ESF school than it is for a non-Cantonese speaker to attend a local school. Isn't that another form of "blatant rudeness"?
(1)Read ESF’s admission policy statement and note its defiance of UNC RotC
(2) Map out the student mix of various ESF schools.
It should show where Cantonese-speaking also-studieds serve to make up class size target and to accompany "pupil-princes/princess"
Such stage set is not much needed for esf schools in the island Mid-Levels and above - upper forms excepted because “expat” children tend to disappear higher up and “locals” are needed to fill spaces.
(3) Local schools won’t reject applicants because most of them are short of students; trite demographic fact. They’re banded.
B3 is always open – UNC RotC fully satisfied, ECJ ruling on the Belgian case also fully satisifed.
B1 is competitive. Unlike esf, B1 local schools won’t consider non Cantonese speaking a merit for admission.
Since you go on to say that expat children "tend to disappear" I will make a giant leap and assume that you think that it is expat children who are "princes" and "princesses". You really don't like foreigners, do you?
Maybe one day all those nasty expats will leave Hong Kong and you can close down the ESF.
They leave when parents hk tour ends or its time for home college entrance preparation. I like fairplay, people who are open and reasonable regardless of cultural backgrounds. Ive some very good foreign friends. Diversities make life interesting.
And Hong Kong students don't study overseas? Or move overseas with their parents? And I suppose you won't find any Chinese "princes" and "princesses"?
Florenceb, Yes I totally agree with you, why is the ESF along with the PTA groups of all the schools not sitting outside in front of the Government offices protesting every day. The answer is because many top level ESF officials may not be interested in the subsidy. All the other protests that have taken place underneath HSBC building have had significant results over the years, e.g. occupy wall street, article 23 , etc.. However in this case we are not taking advantage of the freedom we have in Hong Kong, and that is let the government know what you think and protest.
Of course ESF don't need the money. They comfortably introduced a 500 k fast track entry for the rich (irrespective of the race of course, I dislike the racial aspect in this discussion). Our problem is that existing kids (in ESF schools) do need it and future middle class parents do need the subsidy. And instead of protesting, we should start a more appropriate discussion in HKG about "affordable English medium education", not "ESF subsidies". ESF don't need the money they have proven misuse and poor management over years. Hong Kong needs the money. And obviously HKG needs a new organization running affordable English medium schools.
As a parent of 2 ESF students, I am surprised that nobody from the PTA or parent's representative have initiated a sitting in front of the government buildings. We have been asked in the past to submit letters to be forwarded to the Government or Legco but apparently it did little to our cause. Maybe this would be the way for them to listen to us.
florenceb, i will join you but seems PTA has done nothing so far!
Sticks Evans
Ng should be fired. He is bad for Hong Kong and children's welfare in general.
Agree, along with his other colleague & boss: Paul Chan Mo Po, CY Leung too!


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