The Education Bureau says discussions on funding for the English Schools Foundation (ESF) could be delayed until the end of the year.
The bureau confirmed that officials would report to the Legislative Council's education panel over the issue of ESF funding, referred to officially as subvention, later in the year.
Officials had earlier said the proposals over the future of the ESF would be made available by the end of last year.
The latest bureau statement came as the ESF sent a letter to parents admitting that funding was likely to be frozen for another year, maintained at HK$284 million, and it seemed discussions over the future role of the schools remained unresolved.
But an Education Bureau spokeswoman said the authorities highly valued the ESF system, particularly amid the lack of English-language education places. 'Our policy position is that the English Schools Foundation is an established and valued member of our school system,' the spokeswoman said yesterday.
'We would factor into our consideration the demand for English-medium education by the expatriate community and some local families, as well as any possible niche and uniqueness of the ESF vis-?-vis other private international schools in meeting the learning needs of students,' the spokeswoman said when commenting on the criteria of determining the fate of subvention.
Last July, the bureau proposed the ESF should ultimately become privately funded. Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung said at the time that the funding issue was 'a problem arising from a historical legacy' from the colonial era.
In the letter to parents, ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said the school management could not decide on the fees to charge in the next academic year, starting in September, because it had not received a response from the government on subvention. She said parents would be updated in April regarding the latest situation on fees, when the results of a cost review and benchmarking exercise were made available.
'The board has decided to delay its decision on fees until after the outcomes of the benchmarking survey are available,' she said.
Last night an ESF spokeswoman welcomed the bureau's approach in considering the foundation's position with regards to today's need.