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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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This article is now closed to comments

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.
Hate to disagree with you BUT Cantonese is a DIALECT NOT language. It is certainly not recognized as one of the Chinese languages by China. It is considered a DIALECT just like Hokkien (Fujian dialect), Hakka, Teochew, Shanghainese (Shanghai hua), Beijing hua and many others spoken in the huge country. Cantonese is useful in HK and Guangdong Province, total population 70 million, but of not much use in the other parts of China where the rest of the 1.3 billion people live and certainly not in arch rival city Shanghai which is certainly set to dim the bright lights of HK in the future.
Like I said before -- COME OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE. Live in the real world and not your HK cocoon. The Chinese government does not recognize Cantonese as a language. It is always described as a dialect similar to Fujian or Shanghainese (Shanghai dialect), Hakka, Teochew and many others that are spoken in China. Cantonese has never been called as one of the languages of China of which little HK is a part. Foreigners learning Chinese in order to live and/or work in China learn Mandarin NOT Cantonese. Speaking Cantonese only opens the door to 70 million people living in Guangdong (including HK and Macau). But speaking Mandarin opens the door to the whole of China including Taiwan where they speak the Hokkien (Fujian) dialect and the other 1.3 billion population as well as thousands of Chinese living in other countries. Cantonese is useful in HK but since its return to China many HK people, especially in retail and hospitality sectors are learning Mandarin or Putonghua as it called in the SAR to deal wiith the vast majority of Chinese from the mainland who do not speak Cantonese. I don't see the reverse on the mainland where Chinese are leanring Cantonese to deal with HK people. You want to pitch Cantonese against Mandarin? Be REALSITIC.
Communication in Cantonese can be easily carried out in these easy to learn phrases: "delay macho hey" or "delay no more".
For other delightful phrases why not enrol your spawn in the nearby fully subsidized mother tongue teaching school.
Communication in Cantonese can be easily carried out in these easy to learn phrases: "delay macho hey" or "delay no more".
For more comprehensive phrases why not enrol your spawn in the nearby fully subsidized mother tongue teaching school.
That is the option I chose and it is a valid option. But while the ESF is still receiving public funding I disagree that it should give Putonghua priority over Cantonese.
In science there are fixed criteria to describe things and to analyze data. This is not something that some wacko dreamed up and submitted to a linguistics journal.
Why not enlighten us with one or two of those criteria?
Even in hard sciences it's sometimes unavoidable for subjective opinion to slip in and results can be interpreted differently based on one's background. I won't be surprised if it's even easier for something like linguistics.
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.



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