The English Schools Foundation should scrap its new HK$500,000 charge to reserve a place at its schools or lose its government subvention, parents say. The government is due to make a decision soon on whether to continue its long-frozen, HK$283 million annual subvention for the foundation. Under the the scheme, unveiled in September, local and overseas parents wishing to reserve a place in any age group from next year will have to pay a non-refundable HK$500,000 debenture for each child. Christian Mueller, an ESF parent, said: "It is unreasonable for ESF to impose a HK$500,000 fee as a fast-track option for the rich, when it is running government- subsidised schools. "ESF's justification, that it is in urgent need of additional funds to renovate ageing schools, is a statement proving poor management. As a professional organisation, they should have built up the appropriate reserves for that. Failure to do so is unprofessional and irresponsible." The ESF chairman, Carlson Tong Ka-shing, has urged the government to raise the subvention level to that of direct subsidy scheme (DSS) schools. Until 2000-2001, the subvention was about 30 per cent of the ESF's income, Tong said. Today the frozen subvention represents only 19 per cent of its income. Cheung Man-kwong, a former legislator and vice-president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, insisted the HK$500,000 scheme should be scrapped as a precondition for raising the subvention. Another parent, Karen Chan, argued for government funding for either all international schools or none, to ensure fairness, and for more English-speaking public schools. Other contributors to the debate agreed there should be more international schools.