English Schools Foundation

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English Schools Foundation
Type Non-profit organisation
Industry Education
Founded 1967
Headquarters Hong Kong
Key people Mrs. Heather Du Quesnay[1]
Products See list of schools
Revenue Not applicable
Website www.esf.edu.hk

The English Schools Foundation (Chinese: 英基學校協會, abbreviated: ESF or 英基) is an organisation that runs 20 educational institutions, most of which are international schools, which are all located in Hong Kong. It is the largest international educational foundation in Asia[1][2] and was founded in 1967 as a direct result of an ordinance that started the foundation to provide a "modern liberal education" for expatriates in Hong Kong. Today, the ethnic groups of the foundations' students include local residents of Hong Kong, Europeans and other nearby Asian countries. At the same time, most of their students have parents who are permanent residents of Hong Kong. Its schools have traditionally provided a curriculum based on the British curriculum, but the organisation is undergoing a transition to a more international curriculum from the International Baccalaureate, starting with changing the Year 12 and 13 programme from the British GCE A-Levels to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme from September 2007.

The foundation receives an ongoing subsidy (called the "subvention") from the Hong Kong Government as well as charging a substantial tuition fee to parents. In the 2007–2008 academic year, these fees stand at HK$61,000 per annum for primary school students and HK$93,000 per annum for Years 7-11[ [secondary schools|secondary school students]] (HK$94,000 for Years 12 and 13).

Although all of the ESF schools are comprehensive and "non-selective", students in the foundation have generally done well academically, 90% of their graduates going to different universities around the world.

The schools have progressively improved their facilities, especially in ICT with the help of donations from Parent Teacher Associations.

The current Chief Executive of the English Schools Foundation is Mrs. Heather Du Quesnay

Government subsidy debate[edit]

Unlike most other international schools in Hong Kong, schools run by the ESF receive an ongoing subsidy (called a 'subvention') from the Hong Kong Government. The reason for this is historical and lies in the foundation's statutory basis. Until recently, it was generally accepted that this subsidy was fair and that the foundation had a reason to be subsidised.

There has been some controversy regarding subsidies to the foundation. The fiscal deficit suffered by the Hong Kong Government following the Asian Financial Crisis forced the government to cut costs. There were also allegations that the foundation has misused funds on entertainment and over-extravagant recruitment procedures. A report criticising the ESF's use of funds was published by the Hong Kong Government in November 2004, resulting in a continuing debate about whether the subsidy should be cut or even suspended. The subvention was cut for several years in line with a general reduction in government expenditure and then frozen.

Those in favour of keeping the subsidy argue that:

  1. Students of ESF schools should be allowed the same subsidy that is provided to students of schools in "local" schools. Without the subsidy, some parents could not afford the higher fees and their children would be forced to leave the ESF system.
  2. English is an official language of the HKSAR and there is only limited provision for English language education outside the ESF.
  3. The style of education is different from what is available in "local" schools. Although the government also has the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) to provide funding to schools which operate more independently than typical local schools, most DSS schools were formerly top-tier local schools and continue to offer the local curriculum.
  4. ESF schools provide better quality education than some other international schools in Hong Kong.
  5. ESF already does not have enough money for lots of other educational equipment. Cutting off subventions would make it even harder for ESF to maintain its status as a good quality international school foundation.

Those who argue for the subsidy to be reduced further or stopped put forward several arguments:

  1. Other international schools are not subsidised, so it is not fair that the ESF should be subsidised.
  2. The subvention allows the ESF to charge lower fees and pay higher salaries to teachers than other international schools. This creates unfair competition.
  3. Most students in ESF schools could attend other schools and so do not need a government subsidy.
  4. The ESF has been criticised for its governance and extravagance, which has caused many to question whether the public's money is being used correctly.
  5. The ESF has refused to adapt to teaching the Hong Kong curriculum post the 1997 handover. Instead, it prefers to continue to teach the UK and IB curricula. To receive subsidy, it is a condition for all schools in Hong Kong be preparing a majority of their students for Hong Kong exams (IB exams may be taught to a smaller subset). It is nonsensical to expect the Hong Kong government to fund schools teaching overseas curricula. This is no different anywhere else in the world: national governments fund schools teaching the national curriculum, not those teaching curricula of other countries.

The ESF has recently addressed concerns about governance by putting forward a new Ordinance that will change the way the organisation operates.

It is generally accepted that the government will not allow the ESF to expand any further under the existing subsidy arrangements. Future ESF schools will have to be under the "Private Independent School" scheme with no "subvention". One (Renaissance College) opened in Ma On Shan in August 2006 and Discovery College in Discovery Bay, which opened in August 2007.


ESF was established by government ordinance in 1967. There were then no amendments to the ordinance until 2008. Shortcomings in the governance of the organisation were highlighted by the Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee in January 2005.

The ESF carried out an extensive consultation process to produce an Amended Ordinance and Regulation, which provide for a number of changes to the governance and management of ESF. Some of these are in response to the shortcomings identified by the Public Accounts Committee. The most substantial changes are to the structure and composition of ESF's governing body and committees, including the creation of a new Board of Governors to replace the Foundation.

The new Ordinance was approved by Legco in April 2008 and came into effect shortly afterwards.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  • The English Schools Foundation has a subsidiary known as the "ESF Educational Services Limited" (ESL) which operates the kindergartens and Private Independent Schools. [2]

List of schools run by the foundation[edit]

Important People[edit]

  • Chief Executive: Heather Du Quesnay
  • Committee of Principals' Governor: Perry Tunesi
  • School Council Chairmen: Gordon Lamb, Bill Sharp, Virginia Wilson
  • Committee of Parents' Governor: Marc Castagnet


External links[edit]