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  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:29pm

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

Three governors quit ESF board over soaring school fees as subsidy is axed

Three out of seven elected governors resign over plans to raise money from parents as government subsidy is phased out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 4:50am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 9:06am

Three of seven elected parent representatives have resigned from the English Schools Foundation's board of governors over plans to raise capital from parents and frustration that they did not have any say in fee rises.

Non-refundable building levies and debentures are under consideration on top of an annual fee increase for existing pupils and an expected 23 per cent fee rise for new pupils when the government begins phasing out the foundation's annual HK$283 million subsidy in 2016.

The three quit in March and last month. One, Simon Osborne, said today's parents, who were not told about such expenses when applying for a place, should not be expected to pay for buildings for the future simply because the ESF and government neglected to ask for capital in the past.

He said parent governors had been asked only how money should be raised; their call to scrap the fundraising plans had been ignored.

"It's like asking a condemned man if he prefers to be hung, drawn or quartered. It's not much of a choice," said Osborne, who resigned in late March before his three-year term ends at the end of this year. He said the board was told that if members wanted to raise concerns to the media, "there was no place on the board" for them.

Another former board member, who insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation, said elected parent governors were not allowed to vote on fees because of a "conflict of interest", although the children of many appointed independent governors also studied at ESF schools.

The board also includes CEO Belinda Greer, 10 independent governors, three school council chairmen and representatives of principals, teaching staff and support staff.

The former member said there was no lack of conflict of interest on the board, noting that one member owned a bookshop that had supplied teaching materials for ESF schools.

"I think the board wants to see the government subsidy go away so ESF can go private and do whatever it wants," the ex-member said. "Parent governors are told that they do not represent parents, who elected them, and ESF just treats parents as cash cows without thinking of cutting its own expenses to save money."

An ESF spokeswoman said a long-term financial strategy was important to the sustainability of the foundation and the quality of its education. She said the board had not reached any decision on raising money from parents but a decision was likely at a board meeting today. The meeting will also determine the schedule for electing new parent governors.

The decision last year to phase out the subsidy followed years of debate over the foundation, created to serve children of colonial civil servants but now a popular choice with local parents seeking an international education.

The foundation said yesterday that board chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing, who had served a full three-year term, would stay on for a year to support Greer, who took over in September.



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This article is now closed to comments

every child born in Hong Kong should receive the same yearly subsidy no matter where they use it
My kids go to ESF. I believe every parent is aware that with the cutting of the government subsidy that fees will go up. Even with the subsidy fees were going up and would have kept going up.
I don't though agree with a non refundable building levy though as it is just smoke and mirrors.
Just include all money required in the monthly fees which keeps parents options open to change schools if they wish. (ESF must not lower their high standards to save money)
I think the government should add back the subsidy as the money comes from parents tax and is nothing compared to the cost if the children were to attend local schools. Was a stupid move to remove in the first place.
It should be every child residing in Hong Kong and being subject to the mandatory schooling policy
Their standards are not that high. Their Mandarin program overall sucks. They should abandon IB an they should not build only renovate. They are poorly administered and the good teachers are up against a bunch of outdated thinking. New buildings don't bring quality education. Good teachers do. If they are going to put the money into infrastructure and bit teachers then they are lame. Also they are more concerned with test scores than training thinkers.
A very powerful local woman told me when this came about about ending subsidies early last decade it was Hong Kings revenge on colonial times. Well they will kill the ESF and they will be happy and they don't care because they are rich and send their kids anywhere they wish.
There is a huge story underneath the money. But no one ha cared to find out the real reason the government won't treat ESF students equally. The joke will be on them because their hatred of old times is not now and 70% of the families are Asian.but hate knows no logic.
Any child, whether Hong Kong born or those of an expatriate worker, deserves the right to an affordable education. The average expenditure of a child's education in Hong Kong was around 42,000 HKD per secondary school student the last time I checked. The ESF subvention worked out to be around 23,000 HKD per secondary school student during the final years of the subvention.
So for 23K per head, the government A) washed it's hands of having to provide an understandable education for those without sufficient Cantonese language skills and B) paid a reduced rate for 17,500 students to fulfil their legal educational requirements, 70% of which are HK permanent residents. If you factor in all the locals who send their kids to international schools, estimated at another 5,000 students out of a total of around 30,000, then the government is really getting off lightly.
Anyone, be it expat or local, who is paying for their children's education at a DSS, ESF or international school out of their own pocket is therefore being doubly taxed, whilst decreasing the contributions the government has to make. Surely, these people should be getting tax breaks for going down the path of self financing their children's education.
Yes, the decision was politically motivated and not based on any educational principles whatsoever. I sympathise with parents who have young children - navigating the system and trying to get one's child into school is so stressful. Waiting lists for kindergartens and it only gets worse with the same stress for primary and then secondary unless your child is lucky enough to get into one of those schools offering kindy to IB which for now includes the ESF but the fees will just be out of reach for so many parents.
@dynamco Really? Even in, say, Vancouver or Moscow?
The question is, without government subsidy, for what expatriates are paying their taxes in the same rate like locals. I understand that expatriate kids, do not speak the local language nor do they aim to learn it. Maybe Chinese Mandarin as a second language but not Cantonese in school and Cantonese you need if you want to catch up in class. The government need to offer expatriates affordable education for their kids if they want to maintain HK as a international city.
When the British left, HK was a 1st world city and, I think, one of the world's greatest cities. In 1960? No, but it was by 1997. There's been considerable effort made since 1997 to knock it off that pedestal, which effort I hope is never successful.
My kids only half white so can we only get a 50% increase?



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