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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:45am

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

'Outsiders' have slim hope of landing ESF places

New scheme gives priority to staff and sibling connections and families who pay HK$500,000

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 5:40am

Pupils hoping to land a place at an English Schools Foundation school in coming years will have a slim or non-existent chance of even securing an interview unless they are well connected to the ESF or have paid a costly nomination rights fee.

This is indicated by figures from the ESF, which announced on Monday that it would no longer give priority to non-Chinese-speakers and children from ESF-affiliated kindergartens.

Under the new scheme, priority will be given to those with staff and sibling connections, families who have bought the nomination rights costing HK$500,000 a student, and children of former ESF students.

A new assessment system will also be introduced to test applicants' English proficiency and their suitability for an ESF school through interviews with both the child and the parents.

But data revealed by the foundation show the annual offering of primary one places can easily be surpassed by the number of applicants who are connected to the ESF. More than 400 pupils who are either siblings of current students or children of staff applied for year one entry for the 2013-14 academic year.

These students get priority for interviews for one of the 1,020 year one places available every year, along with 600 graduates of ESF-affiliated kindergartens,

An ESF spokeswoman said that under the system, which will take effect in August for interviews for 2014 admission, the priority for kindergarten children would continue until 2016.

The foundation has said that year one place numbers will not change in the short term.

The spokeswoman stressed that priority for interview did not guarantee admission. When asked how the new system would measure commitment to ESF-style education - a criterion for admission - she said details of the interview could not be revealed because they were not final.

Expatriate parents are worried that the scheme means they will face greater competition from locals, who are expected to rise in number as the policy is more favourable to them.

Critics have said that the lack of quality English education will damage Hong Kong's reputation as an international city and its attractiveness to overseas talent.

Meanwhile, ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said in a radio programme yesterday that it would be hard for the ESF to give more scholarships to pupils without financial resources from the government.


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This article is now closed to comments

I agree completely with IRDHK below that the ESF should apply and the government should grant more schools sites to the ESF. ESF places are in high demand, and the ESF school sites are not luxurious - they are similar in terms of the buildings and playground areas to many government school sites, so the ESF could easily take over some government school sites and expand. This would actually take children out of government schools and free up HK government cash (not that the HK govt needs more cash for bridges to nowhere!).
That woman is continuously pressing the government. the government should improve teaching in English and Putonghua, at higher level
Absolute Nonsense!!! a Pity HK is going this way, get out of here before its too late
My daughter recently attended a 'play visit' at an ESF kindergarten to be considered for a place ('should one arise'). I teach language in one of HK's Universities and knowing what I know both about education and how languages are learned, I've found the application and 'selection' process used by ESF to be vague, prejudicial, arbitrary and grounded in outdated concepts of parenting, childcare and language acquisition. Without having spoken to either parents and having observed my daughter playing with a small group of children in a classroom (in the presence of parents), the school has made a decision of whether or not my child "could benefit from an English medium education". This latest move sounds like something of an improvement if the methodology is sound, but in combination with the dispiriting experience of applying this year, it's beginning to feel like my daughter won't ever see the inside of an ESF classroom. I haven't yet heard the outcome of the selection play visit, the letter promised in the week after the visit has not yet been posted (but will be tomorrow they told me this morning), I guess it has been delayed by internal arguments in ESF about the validity of the current selection process which have triggered this sudden announcement and change of policy. I'm from the UK so am no stranger to debates about education policy, but I really thought HK could do better than this.
Don't be fooled by any communication of ESF. Do we really believe that, after an admissions test, a perfect English speaking child will be favored over a not so good local kid with parents who pay 500k? We would be foolish to do so. They do not have the good of HKG in mind, even less so any English speaking kid... The only thing they care about is their own money... Also, they constantly distribute misleading and wrong information. Like the apparent radio interview of HDQ: She is asking for government resources to increase the number of scholarship places? How about starting to give out scholarships to those in (financial) need? This is NOT the case today; financial resources of the children and their parents are not a criteria today, at least for those that I know personally. Why does ESF constantly expect others (often the government through increased subvention or us parents through increased fees) to clean up their own mess? They may have good teachers (by Hong Kong standards), but the whole of ESF is very badly run.
1) Most of ESF revenue comes from ordinary parents. Why should they pay more so that 'scholarships' could be handed out for free. If the Government really wants Filipino or Indian kids educated in English for free, why doesn't it take money from the overall taxpayer pot to pay for them.
2) The priority order is set out quite carefully. Your 'perfect English speaking kid' referred to has a priority over the HK$500,000 kid if he is a sibling (meaning brother or sister) of a pupil. If he is not a sibling, the HK$500,000 kid has the first shot.
Your aggressive bias against ESF comes out in all of your multiple posts Pam. If you paused and studied the matter closely, instead of reaching for the keyboard, I think many of your complaints would be resolved, as they invariably contain inaccuracies.
Biased? Of course I am biased, having 3 non Cantonese speaking kids going to school in HKG, not being on an expat package... and ESF, with its unreasonable ways, killing all we have had...and more to come for sure... I couldn't be more biased!!! If you are not, you shouldn't comment here! And my name is not Pam!
There is no reason that the government cannot assign a new campus to ESF and allow them to open another primary school. You always hear of schools having to close down and definitely there are 2 ESF primary schools that will not be used after this term (Ho Hum and Rose street).
If there was really any worry from the government of not enough places at international schools that could be fixed with the cross of a pen. At least 600 places can easily (without effort) be offered. People want ESF schools so why doesn't the government just expand it? There is a $40 billion surplus. It would require almost no funding to add 600+ places. International teachers can easily be hired which would be paid for by parents through fees (no cost there).
I have a child in ESF and it is an amazing school and think it should be expanded so more kids can get such a high quality of education. Teachers are amazing, facilities are great and it is extremely well done. Can never say enough about the quality. THE BEST but not enough places for no apparent reason.
'but not enough places for no apparent reason'......there is a very apparent reason. There isn't enough money to pay for a host of new places and new schools. Mindful that money does not grow on trees, they have to make the most of what they've got.
Asian 'values' at its best.



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