As Dr Robin A Lister prepares to move from his position as Founding Headmaster of Malvern College Hong Kong to a regional role with the Malvern family, he reflects on his time at the school, from a hectic first day, to becoming an accredited IB school in Hong Kong – and the recent university offers for the inaugural cohort of graduates.
How has MCHK changed in the five years since it opened?
When we opened our doors back in 2018 with 400 pupils, we were never what one might consider a tiny school, but today we are now a fully accredited IB school in Hong Kong, offering PYP, MYP and DP and we have almost 950 pupils. We’ve also changed to become an “all through” school – this academic year will be the first where students can go from P1 right through to the Upper Sixth (Year 13).
There has been a lot of change in a relatively short time. Now, we’re no longer just another “new” school, but instead proud to have become an established school with a growing and constantly evolving history.
Give us an insight into the school’s first few days in 2018.
To be perfectly frank, they will live in my mind forever! While we had worked so hard to plan and organise everything, I think we can look back on those days and best describe them as “organised chaos”. With 400 new pupils all arriving together, plus a whole cohort of new staff and a brand new building to navigate, our very first day of school was like getting onto a roller coaster and “enjoying” a thrilling ride, with no end of bumps, sharp corners and dizzyingly steep drops and climbs!
Thankfully, things soon became calmer as routines and structures fell into place. We also quickly discovered that there was always a solution to every new challenge we confronted, no matter how difficult it might have first appeared. In hindsight, the way we all handed those initial days were a perfect example of the Malvern spirit in action!
How different has your experience been here compared to Malvern College UK, where you previously worked?
Before Hong Kong, I spent more than 25 years at Malvern UK, and Malvern’s whole ethos and personality were, and still are, a big part of what I stood for. To replicate that ethos in an entirely new school and in a new culture was quite an experience.
No two schools are ever the same but our intention from the outset was to impose as much of a boarding school environment into a day school setting as possible. Therefore, our focus on house dining, the role of tutors, and on instilling the Malvern Qualities in all aspects of school life, along with the desire to combine academic excellence with genuine care for the individual, were all the things which helped MCHK to become a fledgling member of the Malvern family of schools.
Five years later, we see so much of this work coming to fruition and MCHK can proudly define itself as a thoroughly Malvern school.
What have been some notable achievements by pupils over the past five years?
We’ve had so many in our relatively short life! I think the one that stands out most is the resilience shown by all our pupils in coming through the challenges of COVID restrictions. Of course, children and young people throughout the world all had to cope with these challenges. However, I think most would agree that Hong Kong’s restrictions were amongst the toughest in the world – and exacerbated further by the large number of families often living together in relatively small apartments and with only sporadic opportunities to let off steam outdoors.
Other achievements have come from the many pupils who have demonstrated their sporting, musical and artistic skills in winning competitions not only in Hong Kong but throughout the region. More recently, our first ever cohort of Upper Sixth students have been very successful in receiving university offers from some of the most prestigious universities across the globe.
Is there a specific moment or two from your time at MCHK that stands out?
Aside from that unforgettable opening day five years ago, other notable memories include the day we received our PYP and MYP accreditation and, soon afterwards, our DP accreditation. A great deal of work went into these applications and it was a time of immense relief and pride becoming a fully accredited IB school in Hong Kong and in such a short period of time.
There have also been some splendid school assemblies over the years, one of which involved a team of artists painting a collage on stage (in only ten minutes) whilst the school orchestra played a wonderful piece of music written by a member of our Lower Sixth.
More recently, I looked out of my office window to see a bunch of goats that had been brought in to illustrate one of the PYP Exhibition Booths… that was also memorable!
What will you miss about MCHK?
The first thing I will miss, quite genuinely, will be the pupils. They are the very essence of Malvern and they make our school what it is today. My greatest pleasure is to escape my office to visit the classrooms and see what the pupils are doing. I shall miss their cheery welcomes, their engaging conversations and their beaming smiles.
Of course, I shall equally miss my colleagues, all of whom have been such a support and strength through some pretty difficult times as we successfully manoeuvred through COVID. Finally, I shall miss the general bonhomie and energy that resounds throughout our wonderful school.
What would your leaving message be to current MCHK pupils?
To uphold the Malvern Qualities in your life, to be ambitious but humble and to continue to prepare yourselves for a world where rapid change is going to be inevitable.
What’s next for you?
Certainly not retirement! My role is changing from being Headmaster of MCHK to that of Regional Executive Advisor, which means I’ll have an active role in liaising between the different Malvern schools in the region – Hong Kong, Chengdu and Tokyo. I’ll be moving back to the UK, but I envisage frequent online and in-person visits not only to the schools I’ve mentioned but also to Malvern UK – a lot to keep me busy!
New at Malvern
Dr Lister outlines an exciting development at MCHK – the launch of the Passions into Projects Award.
“This award came about as a means of formally recognising the outstanding initiatives of some of our older pupils who have demonstrated inspirational entrepreneurial skills in setting up various business and charitable organisations. Not only have these organisations become highly successful in themselves, but the students who put them together have gone on to establish the school’s Entrepreneurial Society, which now helps younger pupils in their entrepreneurial initiatives.
“Example projects include an organisation that sources internship opportunities for sixth formers both from Malvern HK and from schools throughout Hong Kong, and a programme of teaching English in local schools through drama. So splendid were these initiatives that we thought some means of recognition was required; hence the PiP Award was born.
“The award has been designed with two main objectives: Recognition and Funding. So, it’s either awarded to students to support them in bringing their imaginative new initiatives beyond the stage of ideation or, in the case of existing projects, to provide funding to enable them to scale-up their projects.
“For any new initiative to grow to a meaningful level, significant amounts of time inevitably need to be spent on it. Therefore, the intention is to present PiP Awards over consistent intervals – for example, every three months – to encourage momentum to be maintained.”
Malvern College is an IB school in Hong Kong located at 3 Fo Chun Road, Pak Shek Kok, New Territories
This article first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.