Alex Lo

The government says it wants Hong Kong to be an education hub and a world city but it simply refuses to consider simple changes to its school subsidy policy that would go a long way towards achieving those goals.

Admission to international and English Schools Foundation schools is highly competitive. Even if you secure a place, high tuition fees and debentures can bankrupt your family, if you are not fabulously wealthy or on an expat pay package. Still, many local families are leaving the local system for the international-school sector. Meanwhile, land is at a premium so it would be difficult to offer more public land to build overpriced international schools. The queues will just get longer, even if you can pay.

Yeah, yeah, I know the issues are complicated. But let me be a simpleton. Some direct subsidy schools and the council that represent them have already suggested at least the beginning of a solution, if only those bloody-minded bureaucrats at the Education Bureau would listen instead of flat out refusing to consider their suggestion.

Some DSS schools have been running an international stream based on either the International Baccalaureate or the more British GCSE, with much lower fees. These have attracted not only expatriate but also local Chinese students. So why can't they expand, relieve pressure on international schools and reform our local school system with a more international outlook? Well, because the bureau says DSS rules require the curriculums they teach to cater to local students and prepare them for local exams. In short, local schools are for local kids. A DSS school like the YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College in Tung Chung, which has a 70 per cent expat student population, has tweaked a Chinese-language programme enough to teach expat kids effectively.

Why won't the bureau do more? My guess is that it's just pig-headedness with these bloody-minded functionaries. Oh sorry, I guess I should mind my manners. Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching, permanent secretary for education, is coming to our office to give a talk.

Too bad her boss Eddie "I'm clueless over national education" Ng Hak-kim is not coming. It would be fun to grill, deep-fry and stir-fry him too.