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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 should boost Putonghua lessons, says departing chief executive

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 8:49am


  • Yes: 70%
  • No: 30%
19 Jun 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 269

Departing English Schools Foundation chief executive Heather Du Quesnay is encouraging her successor to consider developing a stronger Chinese curriculum.

Du Quesnay, who ends her term in July after eight years, said that by 2047, when the 50-year handover transition period ends, ESF students will need Putonghua at a high standard to make a living in Hong Kong.

She said the foundation needed to constantly review its Chinese curriculum to make it better. "I feel very strongly about the position of Chinese within the curriculum of our schools," she said. "We must make sure that we're keeping Chinese right at the centre of our curriculum and raising standards in Chinese."

The ESF offers one Chinese class a day for primary school pupils and two hours of Chinese teaching a week for secondary school pupils, taught in Putonghua using simplified characters. Du Quesnay made her comments at a time when the ESF faces the loss of its long-frozen HK$283 million annual government subsidy in stages from August 2016, creating a challenge for her successor, veteran British educator Belinda Greer.

Du Quesnay is confident the ESF's 20 schools and kindergartens will not lose their competitiveness because even with increases, the fees will still be reasonable compared with most international schools.

"The primary fees will still be less than three-quarters of the international schools that we look at," she said. "The secondary schools will be in about the middle of the range. For the sort of results that we are producing, I think it's good value for money and I believe that parents will think that too."

Parents of children starting Year 1 at ESF schools in 2016 are likely to face a one-off 23 per cent tuition fee increase, and the fees thereafter will fluctuate every year, according to factors such as inflation.

Du Quesnay said the government's decision would not affect the ESF's operations because the fee rise would make up for the loss of the subsidy. But she admitted that some parents might not be able to afford the increase and "have no choice but to look for other schools".

She suggested that those parents take the time now to prepare their children for direct subsidy schools, which offer "a very high standard of education" but require children to have good Cantonese as well as English.

"We regret that the government is determined to take the subvention [subsidy] away, but we are pleased that they're giving a three-year lead time. It does give parents time to plan."

The ESF board is reviewing a proposal to allow a handful of companies to buy priority placement, or nomination rights, at its schools for their employees' children, Du Quesnay said. She would not reveal details but said it would be a small number of "very high-cost opportunities". The money would be used for capital spending such as renewing and expanding schools.


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In other words, you want to do everything EXACTLY the opposite of what the mainlanders do. If all the mainlanders wore white socks you would've wanted all HK'ers to wear black socks just to be different. Way to go in creating divisions among Chinese.
China is so huge that different regions have their own different cultures, which is normal for any large country. And HK culture is part of that big collection. In order for effective communication, everyone in the country need to speak a common language/dialect (whatever you wanna call it). That's why all the different racial groups in the US speak English, or why all the different ethnic groups in Russia speak Russian. You wanna talk about economic reasons, having a common language that everyone can understand and communicate with is the key economic benefit.
So Du Quesnay is finaly going after 8 years having completely failed in her main objective -to get the annual government subsidy renewed. As an International school for local cantonese children who don't want to cope with the local schools, I agree it should strengthen its Putonghua - but never understood why it didn't teach cantonese to expat children - at least they would be able to understand Hong Kong a little better!
To ssslmcs01,
Be REALSITIC! Firstly, Cantonese is NOT a language!! It's a DIALECT. Same with Shanghai hua and Zhejiang hua. What is HK compared to the size and might of China? Putonghua is the language spoken by the Chinese on the mainland for business, official dealings and government business as well as by Chinese from different provinces so that they understand each other. Even foreigners learning Mandarin in their own countries learn it in the simplified method and the mainland uses simplified Chinese. Even the bosses and people with economic clout -- in his/her words -- speak Cantonese. But don't forget they are Guangdong residents and they also speak Putonghua and when they speak and deal with leaders and business clients they speak Putonghua NOT Cantonese. Even your Chief Exec and senior HK officials have to use Putonghua in their interaction with Chinese officialdom because you are part of China. Imagine gong to other parts of the mainland and you use Cantonese. That's stupid and shortsighted. Cantonese is useless in these situations. Putonghua is the language of necessity. COME OFF YOUR IVORY TOWER AND BE REALSTIC. In the bigger sphere of things and the BIG picture, Cantonese is USELESS. You need Putonghua. That's the reality.
As someone who has lived and worked in both countries and learned both LANGUAGES, my conclusion is that if you live in Hong Kong you need to speak Cantonese,so I never understood why ESF didn't at least offer Cantonese to expat children. Only by practice can children improve their langauge skills and in Hong Kong you can practive Cantonese every day. I do understand that Cantonese is difficult for Mainland Chinese to speak and read, hence their frustration!
I agree completely with cal10ten. But, I also say let the Hong Kongers who insist on learning Cantonese (and not Putonghua) continue with their stubbornness. It is their children who will pay the price when they enter the workforce (or cannot enter the workforce) 20 years from now. In addition to Putonghua being spoken in China, it is also spoken in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia...Heck, even the Koreans who are learning Chinese, are learning it in the form of Putonghua, not Cantonese.
I agree with Sugelanren, if students are taught Cantonese they can practice it every day, more of them will become proficient in the language. Putonghua would be useful if you planned a trip to norhern China.
To Greenwash:
I'm a parent and I wouldn't support Putonghua teaching. Maybe a Putonghua lesson twice a week. I would support 1/3 of each day being taught in Cantonese.
Yes, why didn't Ms. Du Quesnay improve Chinese teaching in the ESF schools during her tenure? It has been obvious since the handover at least that the ESF needed to adopt a strong Chinese (putonghua) curriculum. At least 1/3 of each day could be taught in Putonghua - parents would support it.
She did. You obviously know nothing about the ESF!!
The quality of Chinese teaching in ESF presently is a joke. Heather Du Quesnay can take credit for this.




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