SCMP Saturday, January 6, 2001

Staff benefits are a poor target for 'sensationalism'

I read with interest the articles 'ESF teachers in benefits boost' (Education Post, December 16) and 'ESF teachers win increase in perks' (South China Morning Post, December 16). Your journalists seem intent on finding something sensational to say about what appears to be a modest salary and benefits package, comparable or even less generous than many other company packages in Hong Kong.
A quarter of the Education Post front page is devoted to a mega dollar sign showing how rich English Schools Foundation teachers are - but you include in the amounts quoted the end of contract gratuity (which is 25 per cent, not 20 per cent) which is not part of the monthly salary. You misquote the gratuity - which means that the monthly salary will, of course, appear higher than it is.
It is very difficult to make proper comparisons with other international school teachers, since where other schools are mentioned in the article, you quote only the basic salary.
You fail to mention whether teachers at one school (Chinese International School) receive a housing allowance and whether teachers at another (German Swiss International School) receive a gratuity.
The quotations from various commentators on the package show a similar desire to sensationalise, and their speculative generalisations seem based on scant evidence. One unidentified parent is "stunned" at the amounts teachers earn.
I wonder how many other parents are truly stunned or indeed if it is really the case that an "awful lot" of parents whose children attend ESF schools are not earning these amounts. Has a survey been carried out or is this mere guesswork?
ESF teachers under the new scheme will qualify for a maximum of $6,000 per month housing allowance. All the other housing allowances you choose to quote (including the Native English Teacher scheme) are higher than this.
I am intrigued as to the reason why you gave such prominence to this new salary and benefits package at the ESF. Had you wanted to highlight the high salaries paid to international school teachers in general, then your own research revealed that Hong Kong International School would be a better example.
Fo Tan