The debate about the subsidy for English Foundation Schools has flared up again. Other than the question of subsidy, shall we ponder, for a moment, the question of segregation?
The ESF is subsidized by the government (tax payers, really) but is not monitored by the government like other local schools. They do not follow the local curriculum. Their students do not attend local universities. In the past, most of their students were British. They do not return to HK after they finish university. Nowadays, there are a lot more Chinese in the ESF population. Most of them still do not attend local universities. Probably more of them would return to Hong Kong, but it is not clear how many.
Many of the ESF students learn little Chinese, since Chinese as a subject is much less important in ESF than in other local schools. Even when Chinese is taught, it is likely to be in Putonghua, not Cantonese. An ESF student is very different from a student in other local schools. It is much more than the use of English. It is in the culture, the outlook, the sense of identity and belonging to Hong Kong, and much more.
The ESF population, prior to 1997, was British. Since then, there is a lot more Chinese there. But they are still effectively segregated from the population that attend other local schools. It is good to provide a broad range of options in education. But, should we have school systems that encourage segregation?