As any parent in Hong Kong knows, the city’s education scene is buzzing. Established schools are expanding and upgrading their facilities and new schools are planning to open their doors to students of all ages. We have chatted with some of the staff and parents of several Hong Kong schools to get some insights on what’s been happening.
Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong
From holding talks on tricky parenting topics to encouraging students to cook soup in an outdoor education class, tradition will blend with a progressive approach to learning at Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong. The 150-year-old UK institution began construction on its first campus in Hong Kong earlier this year and has since announced the launch of a preschool, set to open in 2017. This new enterprise will feature access to Malvern’s extensive and immersive programme for parents and unique outdoor education experience.
Jacqueline McNalty is Principal of Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong and says that the school is passionate about placing children at the heart of everything they do. It’s this approach – along with research that shows children perform better if school life and home life go hand-in-hand – that is behind the preschool’s structured Parent Education Insight Programme. “We’ll be the first to offer such a programme through monthly workshops, offering practical information and tips for children’s personal development and character education at home,” Jacqueline says.
The programme has three prongs; the first sees Malvern striving to educate parents on ways to help children develop certain skills and strengths at home. “Topics to explore with parents could include pre-writing skills and how to develop and support these through fine motor activities such as play dough and threading, or ways to promote a love of reading at home through finger plays, rhymes and simple felt stories,” Jacqueline says.
The second aspect is helping parents understand the curriculum in relation to developmental milestones; the third is geared towards helping parents who might be going through tricky issues with their child. The school will hold seminars on sleeping, bathing and eating, with guest speakers such as child psychologists and nutritionists.
Malvern is also passionate about the Reggio Emilia principle that “the environment is the third teacher” and has incorporated this into the curriculum through the Forest School Education Programme. It’s the first school authorised to conduct the course in Hong Kong. The special outdoor programme uses nature to enhance classroom learning. “Children explore using their senses and understand scientific concepts of the water cycle, insects, sustainability, planting seeds to grow their own plants and harvesting their own vegetables to make their own soup around the camp fire,” she says.
The emphasis on nature also extends to the preschool’s design, which maximises the use of natural materials in the learning spaces. The planned facilities will include a dramatic play hut, a reading loft area and a communal sandpit. “Research has shown that access to a high-quality preschool education has a very positive impact in all areas of a child’s life,” Jacqueline says. “This includes, very importantly, the development of academic skills, but it also helps the child develop in a broad range of areas.” The preschool will have 180 places when it’s fully established; applications are now open for 2017.
French International School
For a number of reasons, many expats look for familiarity when choosing a school in Hong Kong. With the French community in Hong Kong rapidly expanding, it’s no wonder the French International School is one of the city’s largest schools. But it isn’t just the French curriculum that draws families in.
Offering both the French Baccalaureate and the International Baccalaureate, the school is well equipped to provide students in both streams with an international education with a French twist, according to Headmaster Christian Soulard. “They all have the benefit of being immersed in a French environment, culture and language”, says Christian. This blend will be further enhanced at the school’s new Tseung Kwan O campus when it opens in September 2018.
FIS currently accommodates 2,700 students across four campuses, and each is now at capacity, so a new campus is essential. The school hopes to cater for almost a thousand new students within five years. Christian says, “The new campus is very exciting. It’s an opportunity to develop new ideas and concepts, in both pedagogy and architecture.” Based on the concept of a Roman villa, the classrooms will each face and open up to an agora – a common space for assembly, work and play. Students from different classes and streams will be able to mingle and work together in the agora, but every individual class will still have its own privacy. It’s quite a revolutionary concept, for both the school and Hong Kong.
“The architecture will facilitate our pedagogical objectives,” says Christian. “Allowing classes from the French and international streams to mix and learn in such close proximity will really enhance the bilingualism of both groups, and in the end both will benefit greatly.”
There may be a strong French influence in the school, but local culture also plays a part, and in a way complements the school’s ethos. Whenever a new school is built, there is an EDB requirement that the school integrates into the local community. This is something that FIS has embraced wholeheartedly – in true French spirit. Christian says, “The whole idea of a French school is that it must be open to the community and we are making a huge effort on this front.” The new campus will house a pool and gymnasium, both of which will be available for public use, and there are plans to host neighbourhood open days – something TKO residents are very much looking forward to.
Another feature of the school that will be open to the neighbourhood is the planned eco-garden. The entire campus has been designed with sustainable development in mind – “It has always been a focus for the school,” says Christian. But the eco-garden will take this one step further as teachers are currently planning ways to build it into the curriculum. Students will also have the opportunity to see and interact with a number of special eco-features in an experimental garden filled with solar panels and other elements that have gone into helping the campus achieve green certification. Enrolments for the TKO campus are open.
165 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley. 2577 6217 | fis.edu.hk
Nord Anglia International School
A second Nord Anglia campus will open in August 2017 (subject to receipt of customary regulatory approval) for Nursery to Year 3 in Tin Wan, Aberdeen. Spread over four floors, the new school will give NAIS an additional 50,000 square feet of teaching and learning space, enabling a through-train experience for parents. Lam Tin will still offer Year 1 upward. Alexandra Wirawan shares a parent’s perspective on the school.
Who in your family attends Nord Anglia? Andy and I have two children; Jack is 12 and in Year 8, and Lucy is 11 and in Year 6. We’ve been with Nord Anglia for just under a year after moving to Hong Kong from Thailand.
What resources did you use to research and choose a school? We spoke to people at our former school in Bangkok and they gave us the names of schools they recommended in Hong Kong. I then spoke to other expat friends who were living or had lived in HK, and lastly I joined the Top Schools Facebook page.
What other important factors made you decide to send your children to Nord Anglia International School? Nord Anglia had the curriculum we were after, ultimately ending with the IB Diploma, which opens up the children’s options for universities worldwide. This is extremely important to us, as we don’t know where we will end up living. Other things that swayed us towards Nord Anglia were the Global Campus, the Juilliard programme, and the collaboration with MIT. I love that the school encourages our children to be ambitious and experience new things.
What has helped your children to settle into school and into Hong Kong? The school was amazing at helping the children settle in; before we even arrived they put us in contact with other families in our area that had children in the same classes. I had coffees and play dates set up within the first few days of arrival into Hong Kong. This was fantastic for the children as well as myself. The school also has a buddy system, which meant Jack and Lucy had someone from their class showing them the ropes until they felt comfortable.
What do your children say are the most enjoyable aspects in attending NAIS? Jack really enjoys the sporting side of the school; even though the school is still quite new they are making leaps and bounds in this area. He recently attended the Global Games Asia in Vietnam and really enjoyed it. Lucy loves everything about school, from the science experiments in the classroom to doing cartwheels in her gymnastics class at lunchtime. The extracurricular activities that the school offers are wonderful and really diverse, most of which are at no cost to the parents.
Do you have any other comments you could add that might help other parents decide which school their child should attend in Hong Kong? Look at what the school has to offer in terms of curriculum; we wanted the British curriculum, so that cut down the school choices significantly. Also, look for a well rounded school; yes, academics are important but so are sports, music and arts. Visit the school during school hours. Are the children smiling, laughing in the halls and playing together at lunch? At the end of the day, for me, that’s the sign of a great school!
11 On Tin Street Lam Tin. 3958 1488 | nordangliaeducation.com
Fairchild Canadian Academy
Happy, inquisitive children at the centre of a supportive community of teachers and parents is the goal of Fairchild Canadian Academy’s new kindergarten. Fairchild Kindergarten opened its doors in Sai Ying Pun in mid-November, following the establishment of Fairchild Junior Academy in Tin Hau in February. Kathy Nutting, Fairchild’s Head of Early Childhood Education, says the new kindergarten is part of the development of an international through-train school system from playgroups to Year 12.
Kathy says Fairchild’s early years and kindergarten programmes are inquiry-based, and grounded in established Canadian and British educational principles and the Reggio Emilia approach to learning; the latter places emphasis on the importance of the environment and its potential to inspire children. To that end, Fairchild has worked to create a space which brings the outdoors in by using natural elements of wood, water, sand, soil and sunlight. “When a parent enters a Fairchild centre they’ll notice an environment filled with natural light, order and beauty,” Kathy says. “Children are learning every single minute of their day so it’s important to create a suitable environment.”
The philosophy at Fairchild is that children learn key academic elements through play and inquiry-based learning, with daily activities including uninterrupted play, singing, dancing, phonemic awareness activities and creative arts activities. According to Kathy, too many parents view play as “childish behaviour” rather than understanding its importance during the early years. “Research tells us that a child’s ability to fully and freely engage in play is essential to their learning, productivity and overall development,” she says.
Another important aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach that is vitally important at Fairchild is building a community, so parents and caregivers are kept closely involved with the learning process. Kathy, who holds a Masters in Education, says early educators and neurologists agree that the first eight years of a child’s life are a critical time for brain development. She says early experiences have a profound and long-lasting impact on future development and well-being. This is why one of the most specific aspects of a Fairchild education is the school’s strong emphasis on an atmosphere of happiness. “Fairchild students are encouraged to find a sense of happiness and to be humble, caring and respectful with a deep sense of social responsibility.”
The new kindergarten will initially offer accompanied classes for children aged one turning two, and unaccompanied classes for children aged two to three years. K2 will be offered from September 2017. The first step in the application process is to attend a trial class or open house where a team member meets the parents and child.
2898 1611 | fairchild.academy
Mount Kelly International School
Gary Wright, Founding Head Master
As the countdown continues to the opening of Mount Kelly International School (MKIS) in September 2017, Founding Head Master Gary Wright shares what parents and students can expect from the school.
MKIS will be Hong Kong’s first preparatory school; for those who might be unfamiliar with the UK education system, what does this term mean? MKIS will be wholly modelled on the British Independent School pre-preparatory and preparatory structure. We prepare pupils for the British Common Entrance, the principle set of examinations accepted by top UK independent schools such as Eton and Charterhouse School. The curriculum will closely follow the English school system and school environment, using the National Curriculum as a framework. Our goal is to nurture confident, well-rounded and forward-thinking individuals with a strong sense of pride in their achievements, and the desire to fulfil their ambitions and talents at leading senior schools in Hong Kong and abroad.
What type of students is the school expecting to attract? Our target market is international expatriates, including British as well as local Hong Kong families.We plan to be a day and boarding school (boarding introduced from 2018), so we would welcome international pupils to the school as well.
Tell us about the relationship with Mount Kelly School in the UK. The two schools have a commitment for a long-lasting partnership. We are proud of our strong links with Mount Kelly School, a leading independent school in England, and we share in their tradition of excellence and the core values that they embody.
Where will the school be located and what will the campus be like? The school will be located at Tuen Mun, a lovely location near the Gold Coast in Hong Kong. We have appointed Atkins as our architects and structural engineers, one of the world’s most respected engineering consultancies. The overall building project will include state-of-the-art educational features such as an assembly hall, classrooms, library, swimming pool, gym, music suite, science, art and computer labs, and other key facilities. We will be giving our parents regular updates on the progress of the construction.
What are the planned phases of the school’s development? The school will open from September 2017 with 420 day pupils from Years 1 to 4. The second year will have 600 pupils from Years 1 to 8, and the third year, starting September 2019, will have 800 pupils. Boarding will be introduced from September 2018.
Where will the teachers be from? Our aim is to recruit the best staff for every position in the school – people who understand the expectations of working at an independent school in the UK but within an international setting. All our teachers will have a UK recognised teaching qualification and either current or prior UK teaching experience, and we anticipate that many of our academic staff will join us directly from the UK.
Have you moved to HK for this role or were you already here? If the former, how are you enjoying your expat experience so far? I moved here for the role, though I have visited Hong Kong many times in the past. I can genuinely say that I’m enjoying my time immensely in this great city and working hard at this very exciting project.
3974 5588 | mountkelly.com.hk
Want to know more? Check out our other stories on schools in Hong Kong.