English Schools Foundation

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English Schools Foundation
English Schools Foundation logo.png
25/F, 1063 King's Road, Quarry Bay
Hong Kong
District information
Established 1967 (1967)
Chief executive officer Belinda Greer
Chair of the board Abraham Shek[1]
Schools 22
Students and staff
Students 17,565[2]
Teachers 1,251[2]
Other information
Website esf.edu.hk
English Schools Foundation
Traditional Chinese 英基學校協會
Simplified Chinese 英基学校协会
Chinese 英基

The English Schools Foundation (Chinese: 英基學校協會, abbreviated: ESF or 英基) is an organisation that runs 22 educational institutions, most of which are international schools, in Hong Kong. It is the largest international educational foundation in Asia.[3][4] It was founded in 1967 with the passage of the English Schools Foundation Ordinance, under which it is mandated to provide "without regard to race or religion, a modern liberal education through the medium of the English language".[5]

The foundation receives an ongoing subvention from the Hong Kong Government. It is also funded through a tuition fee. In the 2017–2018 academic year, these fees stood at HK$89,200–106,500 per annum for primary school students and HK$122,900 per annum for Years 7–11 secondary school students (HK$129,100 for Years 12 and 13).[6]

Although all of the ESF schools are comprehensive and "non-selective", students in the foundation have generally done well academically, with 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 Belinda Greer.


Sha Tin College
King George V School

Schools that are part of ESF include:


Its schools have traditionally provided a curriculum based on the British curriculum, but the organisation has transitioned 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. As at 2017–18, 20 ESF schools are authorised as International Baccalaureate World Schools,[7] including four kindergartens, nine primary schools, five secondary schools and the two all-through schools. The new ESF Tung Chung International Kindergarten which opened in August 2016 is now an IB Candidate School.

The ESF has received one of its best mean IB Diploma scores amongst its 969 students graduating in the class of 2017 in its history, at a 36 out of a possible 45. Fifteen of these students received a perfect score of 45, which fewer than 0.01% of IB Diploma students receive.[8] There were 218 perfect scorers in 2017 worldwide.[9]

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.[further explanation needed] Before the Handover of 1997, it was generally accepted that this subsidy was fair and that the foundation had a reason to be subsidised.[citation needed]

There has been controversy regarding subsidies to the foundation.[10] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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.[11]

In 2014 government subvention comprised 17.7% of ESF's operating income. Tuition fees made up 74% while the balance was generated through interest income, renting out property, and other minor sources of income.[2]

Student demographics[edit]

The ethnic groups of the foundations' students include local residents of Hong Kong, Europeans and other nearby regional countries. As of 2016 the students came from over 60 countries; the ESF schools, except kindergartens, are required to have at least 70% of their students hold foreign passports.[12]

As of 2017, ESF had a total of 17,700 students, of whom 70% had parents who were permanent residents of Hong Kong.[12] The total number of students in 2013 was 13,000 and the same percentage had permanent resident parents.[13]


ESF was established by government ordinance in 1967. There were 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.


The ESF was involved in the controversial 2015 Hong Kong heavy metal in drinking water incidents.

Amid the scandal in September 2015, ESF tested the water in its schools, collecting over 300 samples. Four of the ESF schools were found to have a high amount of lead in their water supplies.[14] The news was announced through the ESF newsletter. It stated that one sample found in each of King George V School (Hong Kong), Sha Tin College, South Island School and West Island School was found to have a higher amount of lead than the government's guidelines, and that all the other schools had water that passed the inspection.

The newsletter did not specify where the source of the water containing high lead were in those schools. The individual schools have halted the use of those water sources pending an investigation.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.esf.edu.hk/about-esf-overview/governance/board-of-governors/
  2. ^ a b c "ESF Annual Report 2013-14" (PDF). Hong Kong: English Schools Foundation. 2014. 
  3. ^ "Customer Services Officer [The English Schools". Retrieved 18 September 2008. 
  4. ^ "Cardiff LiquidOffice Selected by English Schools Foundation to Automate Forms and Business Processes". Retrieved 18 September 2008. 
  5. ^ "The English Schools Foundation Ordinance" (PDF). Bilingual Laws Information System. Department of Justice. Retrieved 1 February 2016. 
  6. ^ http://www.esf.edu.hk/school-fees/
  7. ^ http://www.ibo.org
  8. ^ http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/2101753/hong-kong-pupils-outshine-overseas-counterparts
  9. ^ (6 July 2017)http://www.ibo.org/news/news-list/ib-results-day-july-2017/ [159,400 DP graduates celebrate 2017 exam results] "International Baccalaureate"
  10. ^ "SCMP Debate: is English Schools Foundation worth its government subvention?" South China Morning Post. Alibaba. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Lau, Kenneth (6 June 2014). "ESF to launch non-refundable levy". The Standard
  12. ^ a b Lau, Jessie (13 August 2016). "Hike in Hong Kong families turning to international schools amid fears of pupil burnout". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  13. ^ Yeung, Linda (28 July 2013). "Overpricing English-medium schools could hurt Hong Kong's future, say critics". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 22 August 2016.  Printed as "A very expensive lesson."
  14. ^ Cheung, Elizabeth (14 September 2015). "Is your children's school affected? Four Hong Kong ESF schools have lead in water above recommended guidelines". South China Morning Post
  15. ^ "ESF schools to raise Grade 1 tuition fees by 20% in 2016". Hong Kong Economic Journal. 22 September 2015. 

External links[edit]