Posted on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 at 11:07 pm
Author: Jonathan Mok
In Hong Kong, Directly-subsidized schools (DSS) have coped with public image damage lately. The Audit Office of the government issued a report blasting the financial mismanagement of some DSS schools. These have not allocated ten percent of their incomes for granting scholarships or grants to poor schools under the government guidelines.
What is a Directly-subsidized school? It still receives government support. It is amounted around 3870 US dollars for each student. The DSS school can charge up to 2.3 times of the amount of support the government offers for the student. Yes, most DSS schools are affordable since their tuition fee range from 1500 to 3000 US dollars. No, a few DSS schools is priced nearly 6700 US dollars. These DSS schools, including St.Paul’s College, Diocese Boys’ School and Diocese Girls’ School, can now choose their students. Most of them are believed to move to Harvard, Yale and Cambridge for college and take up lucrative careers in banking and law afterwards.
DSS schools can also choose their students, academic staff and curriculum. The curriculum is usually either IGCSE or The International Baccalaureate, with local syllabus for university entrance examination.
Yes, DSS schools have faced much criticism. Principals of public schools and the Professional Teachers’ Union have accused DSS Schools of creating a two-tier education system favouring the rich and upper middle-class. Some alumni, especially those gained admission to schools like St.Paul’s College through public entrance examination, lamented that their children may never be able to go to these schools due to the lack of social connections.
Will DSS schools be like “academies” of the United Kingdom, advocated by the current Cameron government?
Time can only tell the answer. I have sympathy for DSS school advocates. Their concerns are like supporters of private schools in the United States and United Kingdom.
First, DSS schools can teach in English. English teaching has been tainted by political correctness, especially Hong Kong is a part of China. Yet, as business and academic exchange are mostly conducted in English, DSS schools have been considered offering a good early start for students to develop fluency in English. DSS schools also have more native English teachers than public schools.
Second, Church-affiliated DSS schools can choose their school leaders and academic staff. I talked to a member of the Anglican Church Council. He told me that ‘the Teachers’ Union is to politicize the appointment of the principal or a teacher if the school chooses an Anglican over others. When the school is a DSS one, the school can appoint an Anglican principal or a teacher. The Church cannot hire a professional to promote a secular agenda.
Third, parents believe they can decide what their children should learn. A parent said, ‘I would like my children to learn to think critically. When my children studied at public schools, they only learned that homosexuality is natural? Also, sex education at the public schools did not teach about the harm of teenage sex. No group should use the public money to promote its agenda.
I agree with DSS schools since they teach in English, have more activities to offer to students and can teach my children to be responsible citizens through religions and moral teachings.
Most importantly, do DSS schools reflect the frustration of DSS parents over public education, tainted by language issues and the struggle between religious and civil rights groups over the curriculum in areas such as sex education?
The question needing to be addressed will be: What is Education for? Should students be exposed to different social environments and teachings? Or should students study in a separate environment that places emphasis on their second language and religious education?
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