SCMP Parents riled over summer English camp July 25, 2013

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A secondary school in Tai Po wants new pupils to take a compulsory five-day language course for HK$880, angering some parents.
Bob Craft has an 11-year-old daughter who will start her first year as a secondary pupil at the school in September. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
A secondary school in Tai Po is insisting all first-year pupils attend an English-language summer camp at a cost of HK$880 per child, one parent said.

The enrolment violated the children’s right to enjoy summer holidays, the parent said.

The five-day session will run from Thursday to August 2 and will be held at the campus of direct-subsidy Law Ting Pong Secondary School.

The school announced that attendance was mandatory in a programme brochure.

Camp instructors are native English-speaking undergraduates from Canadian universities, according to the brochure.

The programme is organised by Wofoo Social Enterprises and Chinese Youth Exchange Centre.

Bob Craft, whose 11-year-old daughter will start her first year as a secondary pupil at the school in September, said the school’s assistant principal told him the programme was non-optional, but he could write a letter requesting non-attendance.

“I find it outrageous that parents must ask a school for permission for their children to enjoy their summer holidays,” said Craft, a pastor who has been in the city for 20 years. “I’m a single parent. The camp will take away the time my child is to be with me. She is fluent in English and Chinese and has no need to attend such a camp.”

Craft said the brochure was originally put on the school’s website, but, after his complaint, the school took it down.

School assistant principal Tong Tat-ming said parents’ had requested new Secondary 1 pupils become familiar with the school’s English-teaching environment.

He said the camp fee covered the instructors’ services, lunches at the school and teaching materials, and parents could apply for government subsidies. “We require all students to attend our teaching and learning activities, but parents can tell us if they don’t want their children to attend,” said Tong.

He said the school would have about 200 first-year pupils after the summer holiday.

Emily Tong Lai-fong, the Education Bureau’s senior school development officer, said parents had the right to choose if they wanted their children to attend school activities, especially when those programmes charged extra. But she said parents needed to inform the school if they chose not to attend and let the school know the reasons.

The school had exempted Craft’s daughter from the camp but he was campaigning on behalf of other pupils.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Parents riled over summer English camp Shirley Zhao

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