ESF - 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.
ESF boss hoping to build bridges with the local education sector
Belinda Greer believes group can introduce a fresh and holistic approach to teaching
The English Schools Foundation's chief executive Belinda Greer says she hopes her group can bring new ideas developed overseas to the education sector in Hong Kong, and develop partnerships between local, ESF and international schools.
"We do feel a responsibility beyond just our own schools," Greer says. "We feel that we can really strengthen Hong Kong."
Many parents choose ESF schools not only because they provide education in English, but also because they want their children to have "a different educational experience from the one that they personally had in the local system", says Greer, who worked in Scotland before joining ESF in September. Although she has not visited local schools and cannot comment on their curriculum, Greer believes the ESF could offer some lessons in different ways to engage children in learning.
It is also important to look beyond academic excellence and to equip children with important skills such as adaptability, an inquisitive mind and analytical ability, she says.
In Scotland, many parents and every teacher can recite the four core values that its education system is based on: producing confident individuals, successful learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors, says Greer. "That's what drives the curriculum."
Greer's own five sons, aged 18 to 30, were all educated in Scotland. The youngest is still at university, while the others all work in the UK in business, the arts and government, she says.
Her children were all born as Greer was working hard as an aspiring educator. She graduated in 1982 from the University of Stirling with a master's degree in education, and began her career teaching in an international school in Abu Dhabi for five years. That opportunity allowed her to fulfil her twin passions for educating and seeing the world. She learned a lot from working with children from different cultures, she says.
Returning to Britain, she became a school principal aged 29. She held the post for 12 years before switching to work as a school inspector for six years, overseeing the development of 23,000 pupils at 85 schools and nurseries.
"I've always thrived on being busy and I enjoyed being a working parent," says Greer. "I believe I had the best of both worlds - quality time with my children and the stimulation of an interesting career."
But there were also challenges, she tells the Post, especially when her boys were unwell. She says her parents' daily support played a key role in helping her juggle work and home life.
Now she hopes to lead the ESF into developing partnerships across Hong Kong's education system at a time when the foundation is facing challenges as the government prepares to phase out its subsidy from 2016.