The fundamental role of every school is to provide its students with quality education. To meet this challenge, schools need an efficient governance structure, appropriate teacher recruitment policies and other back-up services that keep the school management abreast of international trends in learning and teaching.
The English Schools Foundation (ESF), established by ordinance in 1967, bears this responsibility for the 20 international schools and kindergartens it runs in Hong Kong. To improve its operational efficiency, ESF is planning to revamp its governance structure.
"We have submitted a proposal for the Legislative Council's approval to reduce the Foundation's governing body from 125 currently to 26," says Graham Ranger, ESF's education development director. This reduction will allow decision-making on critical issues to be more straightforward and meetings of the governing body easier to arrange and manage. "We are hoping that the Legislative Council will approve ESF's restructuring by the end of this year, enabling us to run more smoothly," he adds.
Recruitment and development
"Changes in the US Dollar value on the one hand and in the curriculum adopted by the ESF on the other mean that our recruitment focus has shifted from the UK to the southern hemisphere, particularly Australia, as well as to international schools worldwide," he notes.
"With about 100 teaching posts to fill annually, it is essential that we find qualified candidates," Mr Ranger remarks. The general criterion is that candidates must possess a bachelor's degree with honours as well as a post-graduate diploma in education. ESF expects its mid-career teachers to have prior teaching experience, but it does take in fresh graduates, particularly if they major in sought-after subjects such as secondary physics and chemistry, or are experienced in running extra-curricular activities such as music, drama, debate or sports teams. Having good testimonials and references does help too.
Skills development and management
Both current teachers and new recruits receive continuous professional development training to develop their teaching and leadership skills further. "On one level, our staff will be given specific training in IT, teaching English as a second language and coaching gifted students. At a more general level, they will attend an enrichment programme to raise their quality of teaching and learning," says Mr Ranger. He adds that ESF collaborates with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to train its teachers. Global experts are also brought in regularly for the same purpose. ESF teachers will be assessed on key performance indicators, the benchmarks used prevalently in the business world.
To allow teachers to focus on their core teaching duties, ESF will extend the hiring of support staff, including business managers to manage its alumni and websites, produce yearbooks, and carry out administrative tasks. "Although we are a non-profit establishment, we must take a more business-oriented approach to running ESF, with due emphasis on effectiveness and cost-efficiency," Mr Ranger concludes.