By Chip Tsao | published May 13, 2010
Harrow School, a brand name recognized around the world as representing the best of elite education in Western civilization, is set to open a branch in Hong Kong in August 2012. It plans to build a grand campus in the classical Roman style in Tuen Mun, with a promise to offer a top-class education that is oriented toward “leadership.”
In exchange for an annual tuition fee of HK$300,000, not only could a Chinese parent hopefully rank his son or daughter among the league of English aristocracy, but he could also proudly boast to his business friends at a Shenzhen golf course or the mahjong table that his son went to Winston Churchill’s alma mater. It’s like walking into a Starbucks in Wan Chai to buy a latte for HK$28. With the iconic white and green cup in hand, you can live the illusion that you’re Anne Hathaway on your way to the Vogue magazine office in Manhattan on a fresh sunny morning—good value for money.
For Harrow, this is a win-win strategy. The mainland Chinese nouveau-riche, together with Hong Kong’s patriotic tycoons, have launched a mass invasion of children into Britain’s top boarding schools—on a similar scale to the mainlander shopping ransack of the LV store in Paris. The number of Hong Kong students studying in the UK has grown by 15 percent compared with last year, as students flee the persecution of Hong Kong’s patriotic education curriculum. With this mercenary-like increase in the intake of Chinese students, British boarding schools and universities are happily making up for the loss they are suffering due to Britain’s recession, but are facing the risk of having their campuses being converted to mini-Chinatowns.
Chinese students coming to London dressed up in Armani and driving Ferraris around could not be that stupid. As Britain’s big-spenders, they would whisper in Mandarin or Cantonese among themselves during a Latin class at Eton. Or, when a world history teacher at Winchester mentions anything about Tibet, they would stage a boisterous mass protest in the classroom, condemning the crimes of the evil Dalai Lama, proudly telling the teacher and their classmates that Tibet is an inseparable part of China. Once told to shut up and pay respect to the core values and culture of the host country, they’d know exactly which human rights groups to contact, or they’d call a Guardian reporter to lodge a furious complaint about racism.
To avoid the possible nightmare that the headmaster of Harrow could one day be ordered to hoist the Chinese national flag on the playground in Windsor on October 1 to show that it is a school respecting multiculturalism, it is sensible to seize the initiative to counter-invade by opening branches in Beijing and Hong Kong, to keep the historically reputed boarding school authentically English at home.
Except the annual fee. With great names like Churchill on the alumni list, the price could be marked up three times higher—right now it sounds a bit too much like a fake Prada handbag displayed at a Lo Wu shopping mall. Harrow has got much to learn.
Labels: Politically Incorrect, 陶傑