Leading educator Mark Hemphill has joined the Australian International School Hong Kong as the new Head of School. He shares his views on Hong Kong and the city’s school system.
What appealed about this role at AISHK?
To me, it was an easy decision to work in an Australian school in one of the most exciting cities in the world. The school’s reputation is outstanding in Australian and international communities. AISHK is unique in Hong Kong – it follows the Australian curriculum, but for senior secondary students they have the flexibility of choosing to undertake the New South Wales Higher School Certificate (NSW HSC) or the International Baccalaureate (IBDP).
What were some of your first impressions of the school?
The warmth of the school stood out to me as something that could be felt when you first walk in. It’s a truly “Australian” environment with an international feel.
You’ve worked at prestigious schools in Australia, such as Knox in Sydney, as well as in the international system in Switzerland. How does that shape what you will bring to AISHK?
I believe we are the sum of all our experiences. I look forward to sharing my breadth of experience working in both single sex and co-educational schools, faith-based schools and international schools in Australia, Asia and Europe. This, in combination with being an expatriate family ourselves, means I can bring cultural sensitivity and empathy to my work at AISHK. You won a NSW Parents’ Council Principal’s Excellence Award for Parent Engagement in 2012.
Tell us a little about that and why you think parent engagement is important?
I think engaging with all members of the community is vitally important, whether it be students, staff or parents. I find that, at the end of the day, people do want to know you as a person. A school like ours is centred around engaging all stakeholders and representing a major component of the Australian community in Hong Kong. Growing up in a small town and in a large family with four sisters, I was always part of a close-knit community, and in work life I have always sought schools or opportunities where community is a focus. I truly enjoy meeting with and engaging with people – I love a chat! The parents at AISHK are already very engaged – we’re very lucky as a school to have this level of support.
What do you think are the particular issues facing international students in Hong Kong?
I believe that, in many ways, students are the same all over the globe. In a world where young people face increasing pressures and anxiety levels, I feel it’s our duty as a school to assist students and equip them with the required life tools to think and act positively, and to not worry so much.
How are you finding life in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is an incredibly exciting, dynamic city that seems to be full of surprises. I enjoy running, and I love the fact that you can be among skyscrapers in the city, yet still be able to find a good running trail in five minutes, often with breathtaking views. On one of my recent jogs in Central, a wild boar casually lumbered into my path, which was certainly unexpected! The Australian International School Hong Kong is at 3A Norfolk Road, Kowloon Tong.
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This article first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.