My Take

Education Bureau favours elite and foreign schools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 June, 2015, 3:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 June, 2015, 3:21am

I don't usually see eye to eye with the Civic Party. But when Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, a party steward and lawmaker, said the government just granted sites to elite international schools but completely "ignored their affordability", he hit the nail hard on the head.

The Education Bureau and the government's idea of creating an international city seems to be to promote foreign educational institutions completely unaffordable to locals and probably most expats - except those with the highest pay and perks - while ignoring the needs of ordinary locals, their schools and other home-grown international schools. The bureau seems happy to go out of its way to be unhelpful, and sometimes, to kill the schools.

In its latest site-allocation exercise, the bureau, in a repeat of its much-criticised decision to grant a prime site to the upmarket Harrow school, has given three sites to two British school brands - the Shrewsbury and Malvern - and the Dubai-based ESOL Education.

However, the long-standing home-grown International Montessori School, which is facing eviction by its landlord, had its application rejected.

Meanwhile, officials have been putting up bureaucratic barriers to St Margaret's Girls' College, a direct subsidy school, from finding a permanent home ever since it was kicked out of its Caine Road premises by its landlord. This sorry saga might give the impression that the bureau is actively trying to kill the school.

Other local schools are luckier, though not necessarily the families of students. A few years ago, the government kicked out home-grown international school Hong Kong Academy, Lingnan kindergarten and a youth education group funded by actor Andy Lau Tak-wah in Stubbs Road, Wan Chai. The site was then sold to Sun Hung Kai Properties. In its wisdom, the bureau granted a site in faraway Sai Kung to the academy, though it knew 95 per cent of the families lived on Hong Kong Island.

It seems the bureau often goes out of its way to make life difficult for schools facing temporary problems. But it bends over backwards to accommodate elite schools with the best connections and foreign school brands that appeal to multimillionaire families. Go figure.