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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

My question to the ESF is, why Putonghua over Cantonese?
Learning a second or foreign language should be done with a clear objective in mind not for the sake of being a filler to waste valuable class time. I have studied linguistics at the masters level and after reviewing a great deal of research on language it became clear that languages become, as much as I hate to use the word "important to learn", for reasons such as economic and because of science. English has been lucky enough to hold clout in both of these areas. As far as Chinese languages go Cantonese is still by far the most economically powerful language in China. With 70000000 Cantonese speakers in Guangdong and about 7000000 in Hong Kong running the economic engine of China, the Pearl River Delta. The bosses, the people with economic clout are Cantonese speakers not Putonghua. There are at least two other Chinese languages (some might say dialects) that are also more economically powerful than Putonghua, the languages of Zhejiang and Shanghaihua.
Looking ahead to 2047, they haven't considered the fact that 70% of Chinese, in China speak in a local language or dialect and not in Putonghua. Obviously the ESF has chosen to blindly follow a trend without doing it's homework.
And teaching Simplified Chinese Characters is teaching a meaningless writing system throwing culture out the window. What a waste!
keep burying your head in the sand if you want, but don't try to tell others how to do their business with your quibbles.




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