Malvern College is stalwart of education in the UK, with a centuries-long history of educating some of the brightest minds and best talent. The UK campus has that “Hogwarts” feel to it, if you know what I mean. So, stepping into the sleek New Territories campus of Malvern College Hong Kong (MCHK), one of the newer international schools in Hong Kong, is an interesting contrast – this very modern realm is an architectural nod to the school’s new era, nestled right next to the city’s science park. It seems the perfect neighbourhood for a next-generation school.
So how does this age-old-institution deal with some of the modern challenges of education in Hong Kong? I chat with MCHK’s Founding Headmaster, Dr Robin Lister, about this, and why allowing children to be bored is a good thing.
The cool surrounds are immediately warmed when I meet Dr Lister and his offer of a morning coffee is entirely welcoming and welcomed. Dr Lister has been in Hong Kong for a little over a year now, having overseen the new school building (delivered ahead of schedule) and the welcoming of the school’s first student body in August 2018.
Dr Lister relocated from the UK, where he was Senior Deputy Head of Malvern College UK. He has taught at Malvern since 1989 and was a housemaster for many years. With a masters in Psychology and a PhD from St Andrews University (where he lectured for a while), he brings MCHK parents a lot of expertise in behavioural sciences.
He’s a man who not only makes an immediate impression of warmth, but who obviously leaves a positive long-term impression on his young charges. He muses, “A lot of boys in my old house still email and contact me, telling me about their getting married or asking advice. It’s very Malvern.”
Dr Lister’s first 12 months here have been peppered with beautiful and surprising interactions with Malvern College alumni, or “OM’s” (old Malvernians for the uninitiated). “I can walk down Central and people who I haven’t seen for years call out ‘Dr Lister!’, it happens all the time.” He reflects, “It’s great, and I wasn’t really prepared for just how many people are in Hong Kong.”
After spending some time getting to know the students and our city’s education scene, Dr Lister has some sage advice for Hong Kong parents about the very structured lives of kids these days. “Children have to be given the opportunity to be bored. They have to be given the opportunity to manage their own time.” He warns: “If they’re over-scheduled, once they become teenagers and have a little bit more freedom, and they haven’t had the opportunity to develop managing their own time, that’s when the problems start.” Dr Lister concludes: “Some children in Hong Kong are pushed too hard. Not just academically, but in sports and other interests too, and it can lead to problems in early teenagers.”
As an advocate of failing, Dr Lister encourages parents to let their children explore and fail. He advises: “Learning to fail is probably more important than success. Of course, a child has to experience success, but it is equally, if not more important, that they learn to deal with failure.” He continues, “That’s what life is all about, being able to cope when things go a little bit wrong. Children should not expect an experience of success in all they do; that’s not setting them up for teenage years or young adulthood.”
MCHK will hold its first Open House on Saturday, 1 December. Prospective parents will have the opportunity to visit the state-of-the-art campus where, along with viewing an exhibition of our founding pupils’ artwork, parents will be able to learn about the design concepts used in the school’s new building.
Malvern College Hong Kong is located at 3 Fo Chun Road, Providence Bay, New Territories.