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ESF aims for $400 million gov subsidy

  1. #1

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    ESF aims for $400 million gov subsidy

    The ESF old-building-refurbishment-funding saga continues:

    The English Schools Foundation is hoping for an increased annual subsidy of HK$400 million as talks with the government enter an advanced stage.
    Financial support from the government has been frozen at HK$283 million since 2000.

    Last year the government even suggested the subvention be stopped.

    The apparent breakthrough follows years of lobbying by the ESF to keep the subvention, which has been questioned by the director of audit.

    ESF chairman Carlson Tong Ka- shing told Sing Tao Daily, sister paper of The Standard, that he recently spoke to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim at a private function.

    Tong said their discussion was positive and their views "very close." He hopes a consensus may be reached before the start of the next school year.

    The new subvention may be in line with that enjoyed by direct subsidy schools.

    "If the subvention had not been frozen, and we take the cost of living index and the current number of students into account, the subvention should be not less than HK$400 million," Tong said.

    The ESF was founded in 1967 to provide a "modern liberal education" for expatriates. However it has since expanded to include all ethnic groups and now caters for thousands of local children.

    Most of the students have parents who are permanent residents and taxpayers.

    There is a shortage of ESF places. About 6,500 students are on the waiting lists of the five secondary and nine primary schools.

    This year, about 2,400 applicants competed for about 1,000 Secondary One places.

    Tong also said the ESF hopes to build more schools in the New Territories.

    ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said rents in Hong Kong are high and the group is reluctant to keep on increasing fees. Consequently, it hopes to build new schools in the New Territories.

    Annual fees for primary schools currently stand at HK$66,100, and those for secondary schools between HK$98,000 and HK$102,000.

    A month after introducing a Nomination Rights Scheme, the ESF is now considering launching a new debenture scheme to finance the replacement of aging buildings...

    ESF close to subsidy deal - The Standard

  2. #2

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    This is preposterous. Did anyone read the centerfold feature in the SCMP? That Chairman Carlson Tong sounds a bit like a sketchy real-estate agent. And David Dodwell suggests that ESF is forcing local schools to do better? Really???

    Every ESF school is a dictatorship run by its principal or headmaster. The only thing they offer that differentiates them from HK's other international schools is more places and cheaper tuition rates, but since those now go to the highest bidder its pretty safe to say ESF doesn't have anything that sets it apart, other than its cumbersome bureaucracy.

    And now they want an increase in government subsidies as well???

    Absolutely preposterous.


  3. #3

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    The same day this was published ESF already sent an email out as well.

    Senior members of the ESF Board have established a good relationship with incoming members of the Government. Several conversations have already taken place between the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and the Secretary for Education and his colleagues in EDB. Recent press reports that we were close to a deal are somewhat optimistic not least because certain principles have yet to be agreed and we do not expect a further report to Legco until December 2012. However, the climate in which the discussions are take place is constructive and courteous. Parents will be consulted before any conclusion is reached.


  4. #4

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    The fact is that it's very difficult to produce a convincing argument for subsidizing ESF or any other private schools with public resources, including funding and land grants. We understand that the fees of those schools are already very high for each school to offset the opportunity cost of holding onto a piece of choice real estate in land-scarce Hong Kong. But there is really no way to justify spending taxpayers' money to subsidize the education of the children of expatriates and well-to-do Hong Kong families.

    It is also hard for sensible people to take seriously the threat that many professionals, both expatriate and local, would quit their jobs, pack up and leave simply because of the high cost of private education in Hong Kong. They should know that private schools elsewhere are just as expensive, if not more.


    These parents are well-educated people who should be urbane enough to know that if you want the prestige and exclusivity, and can afford it, go get yourself a Bentley car. But they should also know that a Bentley is not necessarily that much better than a Volkswagen by the same manufacturer.

    Are govt subsidies to Hong Kong's private schools fair?|HongKong Opinion|chinadaily.com.cn
    The people's paper has spoken, and the tone is thoughtful, if not perfectly reasonable.

    "Down with ESF subsidies!" I shout in agreement, "no more subsidized Bentleys!"

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeoDerek
    It is also hard for sensible people to take seriously the threat that many professionals, both expatriate and local, would quit their jobs, pack up and leave simply because of the high cost of private education in Hong Kong. They should know that private schools elsewhere are just as expensive, if not more.
    Ah but if these people do pack up and leave, they probably won't need to send their children to private schools anymore. The reason they opt for private schooling while they're in Hongkong is because many of the local public schools are crap and produce students who only try to predict what questions would appear in exam papers and memorize model answers.

  6. #6

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    Just spoke to a family yesterday, leaving, cannot afford it anymore. It does happen. And it will continue to happen once schools fees and rents continue to rise. Another friend left last week, similar story.

    It's ridiculous to assume ESF parents drive around in expensive cars; 70-80% of ESF parents are permanent residents, and many who might have ever started on expat packages are now on local packages. Sure not all, but many are. I know quite a few (local) parents with just one child, who will do anything to put their child through an ESF / international school, and can barely afford the fees but stick to it, as they don't want their child to go through local schooling like they did themselves. They make that choice, make it work and sacrifice in other areas but they won't be able to afford an 20% hike in school fees.

    That said, an email was send out to ESF parents last night stating that the government will guarantee subvention at the current level for all children currently in the ESF system. Other and additional details are still under negotiation.


  7. #7

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    (Some more details on the email from last night) A letter from Carlson Tong to ESF parents mentioned the following:

    following a good deal of pressure from the ESF Board, the Government has agreed to guarantee that subvention at the current level will continue to be offered to children already in ESF schools for up to 13 years. This was stated by the Secretary for Education, Eddie Ng, at a meeting with the then Vice-Chairman, the CEO and myself on 4 October and has been repeated since in an exchange of letter.
    At that meeting, the Government was adamant that the ‘old subvention is no longer relevant in modern Hong Kong and must be phased out. The Board has, as you know, protested against this view since discussion of the subvention began and we have continued to do so in our recent exchanges. However, we have to accept that the Governments current position is very clear and we either enter into negotiation with them or sit on the side lines for an indefinite period, leaving parents in continuing uncertainty about the financial cost of their childrens education.
    The language of his letter makes it clear the government is almost certainly drying up ESF subventions, but ESF has managed to secure continued subsidies for currently enrolled students (for up to 13 years).

    Will Island Schools crumbling buildings hold themselves together in the mean time? Is the ESF ‘too big to fail?

    Is cutting ESF subsidies doing justice to HKs other private schools? Will the money the government saves be spent on improving the situation at under-enrolled local schools?

    Weve got questions, who has answers?

  8. #8

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    I agree that gov't shall not subsidize ESP. If the main purpose of subsidizing ESP at the very beginning is to serve expats who don't speak local language, from what I see right now most of the students in ESP are locals. Why the taxpayers pay for the so-called "private" institution for those who are financially better-off than other ordinary residents ?

    The main focus of the Gov's should be to improve the local education with better quality teachers and curriculum. Some of the curriculum used in private schools can also be introduced to the local schools. The money (that has been using for subsidizing) should be used to make our local schools better. Hire more native speakers to teach English in local schools and adopt more "fun" approach to learning. Schools should be fun and kids can learn through play with suitable amount of homework. Then, it will benefit the whole society. Every kid can get the most of it.

    I don't think we need to worry about expats as most of the expats have package that covers their expenses in international schools etc. As an expat wife for many years, I know it's the responsibility of the expats to bargain with their companies for those benefits before they come.

    Just my two cents..

    howardcoombs likes this.