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Government squandering human capital

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Home > Letters to the Editor, July 9, 2013

Letters to the Editor, July 9, 2013

Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 12:00am


Government squandering human capital

Jake van der Kamp’s ramble around the subject of Hong Kong’s education system left me rather bemused (“International school model works fine [5]“, June 27)

Van der Kamp goes out of his way to be provocative, so I’m not going to waste words picking him up on the over-generalisations in his article.

All I would say is that he doesn’t seem to understand much about the International Baccalaureate programme.

There is nothing “regimented” about the curriculum; on the contrary, it offers students a wide range of options as regards the subjects they study and the levels at which they feel comfortable to be examined.

It also encourages students to research and read around topics, rather than simply regurgitate information learned in class or from textbooks. I do agree with him on one key point, however: it is the local rather than international school system that is in need of review.

Despite the fact that, along with Cantonese, English is an official language in Hong Kong, the government has no coherent policy for providing subsidised school places for the children of local English-speaking families. Most of these families are permanent residents and, like van der Kamp, pay their fair share of tax. It is wrong that they should basically be told: if you cannot afford international school fees, your child must struggle along, without adequate support, in a local curriculum school.

The handful of Direct Subsidy Schools, that offer an international as well as local stream at much lower fees, simply do not have enough places to meet demand, a situation that will be compounded as the subvention to the English Schools Foundation is progressively phased out and more middle-income families are priced out of that market.

Is anyone in government looking at the big picture? By mandating a rigid divide between local and international schools and insisting that only schools providing the local curriculum qualify for government funding, the administration is discriminating against non-Chinese-speaking minorities.

It is squandering valuable human capital, in the shape of children who will be unable to achieve their full potential, and doing nothing to help narrow the ever-widening gap between “the haves” and “have-nots” in our society.

Elizabeth Bosher, Discovery Bay

HK near top of shameful league

As we congratulate the good work of customs officers who smashed an illicit cigarette syndicate in north New Territories and seized about 1.1 million sticks of contraband cigarettes on Sunday, we shouldn’t forget Hong Kong’s illicit cigarette trade is thriving.

Independent surveys consistently indicate cigarettes, for which taxes have not been paid, account for more than 40 per cent of the consumer market.

With 19 sticks being the duty free import limit, it is fair to assume that most of the cigarettes, for which duty has not been paid, are illicit.

This places Asia’s world city near the top of a shameful league of tax evaders in the region.

Enforcement statistics present a picture with over 11,000 arrests of illicit traders last year, up from 6,033 in 2010. Despite the arrests, the criminal organisations behind the illegal trade continue to brazenly advertise their range of products and commonly post fliers in housing estates. The business is lucrative and consequentially represents billions in lost revenue every year.

The establishment of the advocacy group, the Hong Kong United Against Illicit Tobacco (HKUAIT), is designed to raise public awareness and garner public support.

There are no ulterior motives other than to protect the livelihood of some and curb a tendency for others to enter into undesirable business with organised crime.

The government is duty-bound to use its considerable resources to tackle the problem at source.

How it chooses to do so remains to be seen but the group will be looking for improvements and would welcome your readers’ support.

Robin Jolly, convener, HKUAIT

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