Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim claims he had no intention of forcing the English Schools Foundation to adopt a local curriculum like the Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE).
However, Ng suggested at a Legco hearing late last month that the ESF's recurrent funding, or subvention, should be cut because it offered students only an international curriculum.
In a letter to the South China Morning Post today Ng says that the ESF has no intention of changing its curriculum and that he had not asked it to do so.
In a Legco meeting on October 31, Ng, in response to a query from lawmakers, said the subsidy model for ESF must change as it lacked a local curriculum.
He said at the time: "We will stick with the principle that if it doesn't provide a local curriculum, such as the [HKDSE], the subvention model will change."
Ng's remarks had raised concerns among parents and teachers that the ESF's nature would fundamentally change if it modified its curriculum.
His press secretary also said last Friday that Ng was not planning to push a new curriculum for ESF schools. But in the letter, Ng compared ESF to the direct subsidy schools, many of which offer local and non-local courses.
"Some suggest providing funding to the ESF that is comparable to those received by schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme," he said. "ESF schools are different from DSS schools, which primarily offer a local curriculum and have to comply with a more stringent monitoring mechanism."
Ng insists that in terms of key issues, such as admissions and fees, ESF schools are "no different from other international schools" and that policy regarding the ESF subvention will take this into account.
The subvention "will be phased out in an orderly and gradual fashion in order not to prejudice the interests of the existing students admitted to ESF schools before any new subvention arrangement takes effect. The Education Bureau is open to any new and unique role that the ESF can perform in the context of the entire school system and in complementing the government's policy. As such, if there is any subvention to the ESF, it would all be based on the new and unique role of the ESF, if any," Ng writes.