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ESF Grilled in SCMP Letters to the Editor

  1. #1

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    ESF Grilled in SCMP Letters to the Editor

    The ESF was established to provide an affordable international education for students whose home country was not necessarily Asia and whose mother tongue was not Cantonese. By freezing the subvention the government has forced the ESF to increase fees to a point where it is now a struggle for ordinary expat families to educate their children here.

    Letters to the editor, Nov 7

    I didn't know the English Schools Foundation was established for quite such laudable aims. I had always thought it was set up as a convenience for expatriate civil servants, just another perk of the job not extended to ordinary mortals.

    But things change over time and I no longer see why it should be treated as different from any other international school. It happens to be one of the few things on which I see eye to eye with our government, a rare event indeed.

    I shall also grant you there is an element of less laudable motive on my part in saying so. My wife and I enrolled our children in Chinese International School and paid every cent of the cost ourselves. It was a lot of money. I would have liked a subvention, too. Why did only ESF parents get one?

    And then there is always the question of the ESF pay scale. They had to give us a glimpse of that one 10 years ago when the teachers decided that they no longer wanted to be linked to the government pay scale because civil servants were being made to take a pay reduction for a year and this just wouldn't be fair to teachers.

    To establish a new pay scale, however, they first had to commission a professional teacher pay survey for comparable schools around the world. The survey found that ESF pay averaged 10 per cent above the top decile worldwide. Impressive indeed, the highest paid teachers in the world and then some. What are the standings now? Go on, folks. Tell us.

    But let us get to that bit about it being a struggle for ordinary expat families to educate their children here.

    I'm sure it's true in a large number of cases. It's not an education problem, however. It's an expatriate pay problem. If these people are not paid enough to make ESF affordable then they must tell their employers to pay more or, if the employers refuse, put their children in local school.

    And if local school is too daunting a prospect, then their solution is to go back home to the countries from which they came and put their children in the public school systems there.

    There is no getting around it. If employers find that the difference in ability between expatriate and local hires is not great enough to justify the extra cost of international school for the children of expatriate hires then there is little reason to prefer expatriate over local hires.

    There may have been a time when expatriate hires could really demonstrate superior ability in some fields but, if ever there was such a time, it has long passed.

    About 35 per cent of our workforce now has tertiary-level education. What can Europe bring Hong Kong now except people who are more desperate to find work?

    It's my impression that over the past few years there has been a substantial increase in the number of expatriates from some western European countries, most notably France. When I ask why they come, the most common answer is that things are so bad at home there is no work to be found.

    This may be a very good reason for leaving home to find work abroad but it is no reason for the public purse in Hong Kong to provide special subsidies to these people to give their children an international education.

    ESF parents will just have to buckle down to it. No special deals. If you can't pay up for international education and won't tolerate a Chinese cultural environment for your children's schools, then go back home. Hong Kong doesn't lose.
    Jake van der Camp lets loose on the ESF. How do you feel about ESF subsidies?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Editor
    Jake van der Camp lets loose on the ESF. How do you feel about ESF subsidies?
    Firing salvos at ex-pats is trendy in this day and age, quite safe too, not many people are going to defend a bunch of foreigners robbing jobs from locals. Go home, good riddance! Who knows, Jake might find himself at the receiving end of such sentiments one day, and by the looks of it, probably in the not too distant future.

    ESF may have dishonourable origins, traceable all the way to the opium trade if one wants to stretch, but is it still that same elitist colonial establishment? A look at their student population would reveal otherwise, 70% to 85% are local permanent residents who are either born here or visitors with no condition on their stay, in the civilized world these people would be eligible for social benefits. In essence, today's ESF schools are local schools offering an international curriculum, an alternative to traditional rote learning, and serving primarily local residents at subsidized prices. Who will bear the brunt if the subvention is ceased? A few god damn ex-pats yes, but many more local residents.

    Jake can blast away at ex-pats as much as he likes, good luck to him, but to sneak pot shots at ESF by hinting it is full of ex-pat children is simply distasteful.
    Last edited by mickymaus; 12-11-2012 at 06:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mickymaus
    A look at their student population would reveal otherwise, 70% to 85% are local permanent residents who are either born here or visitors with no condition on their stay, in the civilized world these people would be eligible for social benefits.
    A look at the student population of *many* private schools in Hong Kong would yield the same result. The question being asked is what makes ESF (along with its teachers and students) deserve the subsidies when the rest of the private schools dont get it?
    In essence, today's ESF schools are local schools offering an international curriculum, an alternative to traditional rote learning, and serving primarily local residents at subsidized prices. Who will bear the brunt if the subvention is ceased? A few god damn ex-pats yes, but many more local residents.
    So be it. If they want the privilege, then pay for it. If you cant afford it, there are plenty of affordable choices around.

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    Quote Originally Posted by howardcoombs
    A look at the student population of *many* private schools in Hong Kong would yield the same result. The question being asked is what makes ESF (along with its teachers and students) deserve the subsidies when the rest of the private schools dont get it?
    Many private schools deserve assistance from the government too, no doubt about that, so it is a question of attitude isn't it ...

    (A) "I don't have it, they shouldn't have it either"

    (B) "They have it, I should have it also"

    A is going to make ESF an elitist institution like the rest, reserved for those who can pay, B is going to make quality education more accessible to everyone.

    Lets be reminded that we are living in a country together with 1.3 billion people who don't enjoy the same freedoms and privileges as us, what if these 1.3 billion start to think, "I don't have those, they shouldn't have them either".

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    Quote Originally Posted by mickymaus
    Many private schools deserve assistance from the government too, no doubt about that, so it is a question of attitude isn't it ...
    no, its a question of fairness.
    Why is the government subsidizing something that should be taken care of by private interests.

    Stop the subsidies and concentrate on a uniform, accessible and affordable school system for all.
    (A) "I don't have it, they shouldn't have it either"
    (B) "They have it, I should have it also"
    A is going to make ESF an elitist institution like the rest, reserved for those who can pay, B is going to make quality education more accessible to everyone.
    Subsidizing private schools is not an appropriate means to achieve this. Instead, spend the money on the entire system which is accessible to all.
    Jomama likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by howardcoombs
    no, its a question of fairness.
    Why is the government subsidizing something that should be taken care of by private interests.
    Regarding fairness, there are 2 approaches to achieving equality, e.g. let 1.3 billion people have the same rights as us, or strip these from us so we are down to their level. In the latter case, some people will lose while nobody stands to gain.

    Incidentally, private schools do receive assistance from the government, just in more subtle ways, many are paying peanuts to rent the plot of land they are sitting on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mickymaus
    Regarding fairness, there are 2 approaches to achieving equality, e.g. let 1.3 billion people have the same rights as us, or strip these from us so we are down to their level. In the latter case, some people will lose while nobody stands to gain.
    Lets not derail the conversation. We can worry about the 1.3 when 2047 rolls around.
    Incidentally, private schools do receive assistance from the government, just in more subtle ways, many are paying peanuts to rent the plot of land they are sitting on.
    Well aware of this is minor in the grand scheme of things.

    For now, I'm very happy to see progress made WRT the ESF issue. We are finally seeing some closure and glad to see that sooner than later, ESF will turn into a private&international school system and can compete on equal footing with the rest of the international schools in town.

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    Quote Originally Posted by howardcoombs
    Lets not derail the conversation. We can worry about the 1.3 when 2047 rolls around.
    Well aware of this is minor in the grand scheme of things.
    2047 may be far off, but the notion of "some people will lose while nobody stands to gain" is still valid.

    The "minor" assistance received by some private schools isn't that minor, even in the grand scheme of things, take Harrow International as an example, details in the following article ...
    Harrow Int’l School HK a harrowing cost to taxpayers | China Daily Asia Pacific

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    Lets not confuse apples with oranges.
    AFAIK, almost every school in Hong Kong has received land grants - a nice, fair and uniform application of land to expand our education base. This is not relevant to continuing to support a school system such as ESF with subsidies.

    If schools need/want ongoing subsidies, they can apply for them and receive them by meeting certain criteria, one of which happens to be : follow HK Curriculum (and certainly NOT English national curriculum)

    Last edited by howardcoombs; 15-11-2012 at 10:20 AM.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by howardcoombs
    If schools need/want ongoing subsidies, they can apply for them and receive them by meeting certain criteria, one of which happens to be : follow HK Curriculum (and certainly NOT English national curriculum)
    This is not entirely accurate.

    Many private schools in Hongkong are under the DSS (Direct Subsidy Scheme) and receive subsidy packages fatter than what ESF schools are getting. These DSS schools are free to design their own curriculum, and although they are expected to prepare their students for local exams, some of them also offer the IB programme to around 30% to 50% of their students. Like this group of DSS schools, ESF schools are following international curriculum (IB and IGSCE) and not the English national curriculum.

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