English Schools Foundation
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The English Schools Foundation (Chinese: 英基學校協會, abbreviated: ESF or 英基) is an organisation that runs 21 educational institutions, most of which are international schools, which are all located in Hong Kong. It is the largest international educational foundation in Asia 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 2013–2014 academic year, these fees stand at HK$70,000 per annum for primary school students and HK$101,400 per annum for Years 7-11 secondary school students (HK$106,300 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 current Chief Executive of the English Schools Foundation is Belinda Greer.
Government subsidy debate
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 2002, 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.
The ESF has recently addressed concerns about governance by putting forward a new Ordinance that will change the way the organisation operates. The foundation imposed a refundable capital levy of HK$25,000 per student in 2011.
The changes culminate in the phasing out of government's annual subsidy (worth HK$283 million) with effect from 2016, tapering to zero in 2028-29. After a comprehensive internal review of financing needs, the foundation decided to introduce one-off non-refundable levy starting in the 2015/16 school year. The will be set at HK$38,000 for first-year students for, with lesser amount for those joining higher age groups – HK$3,800 will be charged for Year 13 entrants. The ESF expects to raise an extra HK$50 million every year through the levy, for the replacement of schools.
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.
Notes and references
- "Customer Services Officer [The English Schools". Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- "Cardiff LiquidOffice Selected by English Schools Foundation to Automate Forms and Business Processes". Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Lau, Kenneth (6 June 2014). "ESF to launch non-refundable levy". The Standard
- The English Schools Foundation has a subsidiary known as the "ESF Educational Services Limited" (ESL) which operates the kindergartens and Private Independent Schools.