The division of Hong Kong's education system into local and expatriate schools is a legacy of the colonial era from which we are still struggling to extricate ourselves.
The system used to reflect the interests and prejudices of the colonial ruling class and its small pool of local allies. It no longer serves our city's needs. But despite or because of all the tortuous changes and bungled attempts at reform, we now have a hydra-headed beast with government and aided schools, direct subsidy schools, the under-subsidised English Schools Foundation schools, and private local and international schools.
Variety does not necessarily offer more or better choices. Rather, it has led to enormous waste of resources and doubling up of services and effort. You have parents who insist on sending their children to elite local schools instead of the government school next door. Others join the long queues for a place at ESF or international schools, leaving many expatriate children without a place. There are direct subsidy schools that can take on non-local or non-Chinese-speaking students, but long-standing rules - badly in need of updating - prevent them from accepting more than a token number of foreign students.
The Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council offers a way forward. Loosen the rule on foreign-student intake, so DSS schools that offer an international baccalaureate or British programme can accept more foreign or non-Chinese-speaking students. This will ease the pressure on international and ESF schools and help internationalise our parochial local curriculums.
Predictably, the Education Bureau has said no because those schools are, well, local. Maintain the status quo - this has been the bureau's modus operandi under Michael Suen Ming-yeung. The problem is not that we lack resources, but rather the will and vision to make it right. We need to pressure the next administration to do better.