High Risks of Moving to Partnership:
- Loss of competent and experienced teachers. Homologation will depend on our educational practices and is not guaranteed.
- Significant financial risks related to transition costs, loss of AEFE contractual support and uncertainties related to the costs of excellence advocated.
- Middle-term diplomatic risks with the FIS acting as a private entity in its negotiations and risks for FIS strong-reputation.
- Competencies of the headmaster to lead French and International sections, in compliance with the rules of homologation (FF) and accreditation (FI), recruited by the board of directors with no qualifications in the matter.
- Equivalent cost for FIS during transition and lack of impact analysis of level of tuition fees beyond 2020.
- Increased flexibility of the pedagogical project: consultation of the parents will be bounded by the rules of the homologation in the complex context of the FIS HK (4 sites, 2 channels, several sections in FF).
- The homogenization of contracts proposed to resolve tensions within the teaching profession will not solve the problems of human relationship that exist in any company. (see letter of the 75 teachers).
Board Methods’ open to criticism:
- Initial intention of the board of directors to force a unilateral decision in February. It was only under the pressure of the petition led by parents that the board of directors decided to submit this decision to the vote of parents during General Meeting on May 23rd.
- Legality and legitimacy of the electronic consultation of May 13-15 which bypasses the debate at the General Meeting on May 23rd.
- Refusal to debate in forum and opacity on the costs related to the pro-partnership campaign.
The Board of Directors of FIS Victor Segalen recommended on 4 April 2019 to change the relationship with the AEFE, to leave the system of convention established since 1991 and to move to a system of partnership (ie. a complete privatization of the FIS). Following the Webinar organized by the Board of Directors on April 30th and the BPR meeting on May 2nd organized by the LFI Action Group, here is the position of the parents of the LFI Action group behind the petition of March 19th, 2019: Our goal remains to inform parents so that they make an informed choice on their own. The current situation and our analysis of the documents communicated by the Board of Directors oblige us to underline the following points:
The risks are high:
- No strategic vision stated by the board of directors. Without strategic vision, there is no school project – so no educational roadmap – possible for high school, nor a way to evaluate the performance of the Head of School and his team. The transition to the partnership would mobilize a large part of the resources over the next 15 months, thus delaying the clarification of the strategic line.
- A single experience of genuine move from convention to partnership in the AEFE network (i). The change of a school of the size and profile of the FIS, enrolling a majority of French children, has never been realized.
- A backward step impossible in case of change to partnership. The means made available to the LFI under a convention will be redistributed within AEFE or even removed (ii).
- Probable departures of qualified teachers during the 2020-2021 school year, sometimes for technical reasons (iii). And given the proportion of resident teachers in exam classes (70%), student preparation for the new 2021 Baccalaureate will be affected.
- A change of status project that gives all power to the Board of Directors without guarantee of pedagogical independence, opening the door to abuse of power, clientelism and micro-management by the Board already reported by the staff through the IPSOS survey.
- A risk of loss of homologation in the medium or long term (a) If the criteria are identical whatever the status of the institutions, the more distorted links between AEFE / MEN and the establishment make it more difficult to meet the criteria for certification (principal’s course, ratio of national education teachers, conformity to programs, proportion of French pupils). (b) Risk also related to non-compliance with governance rules (Victor Segalen Council that the Board of Directors would like to submit to its control).
- High financial risks (lack of communication of a financial plan, partial assessment of the transition costs of 8.7 million HKD, consulting firms’ interventions). Large sums not benefiting to the school have already been committed for the campaign (consulting, webinars).
- Less diplomatic leverage with local authorities, with the school acting as a private entity in its negotiations. The Chairman of the Board of Directors being the only interlocutor of the local authorities.
The benefits are not demonstrated for the school and its students:
- Greater listening to specific expectations of parents in pedagogy. Non-satisfied parents on pedagogy do not have guarantee that the partnership Headmaster will follow their expectations. Many educational choices are the decision of the governing board and not the AEFE or the Ministry of National Education (MEN). They are therefore independent of the partnership / convention status. This is particularly true for the establishment or removal of level groups in language learning and skills assessment (iv).
- Quality in the recruiting, appointing and evaluating a Head of school for a contained cost
- Homogenization of teacher evaluation criteria is not demonstrated even if they will have local contracts. Moreover, other tensions will arise between those who have obtained a detachment and those who have not had it.
- No financial benefits for FIS members. We will continue on best hypothesis on the same trend of rising costs
The methods used by the Board of Directors to implement its project are open to criticism:
- The decision was originally to be ratified by a vote of the Board of Directors, without consultation of the parents.
- Refusal of contradictory debate, despite our multiple requests issued since March and our invitation to the meeting of May 2nd.
- Lack of consultation of all parents, and unilateral communication with parents and representatives, without possibility of debate (“workshops” and “consultations” which only bear the name)
- A partial analysis of the situation based on an Ipsos poll with a low participation rate and the purpose of which was not clearly stated to the participants (questionable representative character).
- Absence of objective analysis strengths / weaknesses / risks / opportunities of both options.
- A summary financial analysis, insufficient to accept or refute the assumptions used.
- No communication to date with all teachers and staff presenting them the 2 possible alternatives and the analysis of each.
- Propagation of fake news, especially on teacher tensions related to differences in status. FIS satisfied parents have never been given the floor to say for the ones looking for improvement in the current setting, rather than an in-depth overhaul of the high school that affects children.
- Regular and ad-hoc change of the calendar and the methods of consultation and voting.
- Refusal to share some of the information requested, including minutes of board meetings and the costs of consulting and campaigns to convince parents.
- Asymmetrical and divisive information: example of the communication specific to the international section of April 10 denigrating French officials divides the school by antagonizing the two sections.
CONCLUSION: The transition to partnership exposes us to significant risks for uncertain benefits while the new convention is a continuation and offers a better answer to the challenges awaiting the FIS:
- The new convention guarantees the independence of pedagogy, while satisfying most of the recommendations of the board of directors: greater educational flexibility, alignment of the job description of the head of school, its roadmap and the assessment of its objectives all decided in consultation with the Board of Directors. This without exposing students to the operational risks of a transformation never experienced by an institution of our size.
- It does not lead to higher tuition fees. The reserves created following the 8% increase in tuition fees over 3 consecutive years for the development of campuses, must be preserved rather than used for exceptional expenses related to the transition to the partnership (HKD 8.7 Million).
- The priority must be a more consensual definition of the school’s strategy, an increased dialogue between its actors and a re-thinking of governance that will allow us to approach the future in a peaceful and concerted manner.
i. Calgary, less than 400 students. The CBFL (homologated up to college only) initiated by the AEFE from the opening of the school for a technical reason so not comparable to FIS.
ii. The transition to the partnership was initiated by the AEFE for a technical reason (* 1) related to the fact that the contribution of funds comes from a trust – The Board is composed of 6 trustees having participated in the fund raising + 6 elected parents)
iii. See the minutes of the May 2nd meeting.
iv. If there is a transition in partnership, resident professors have only two options:
a. enter into a local contract after asking to be on suspended contact with the French national education contract, which is automatic granted for spouse geographical mobility
b. Return to their home academy and ask for a direct detachment, more and more difficult to obtain because of the lack of teachers in France.