International schools in Hong Kong

Dual track to knowledge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2012, 12:00am

Students taking the IB Diploma Programme (DP) are given a fantastic opportunity to study a range of subjects, to learn to apply knowledge practically, and to develop through activities and community service.

The Australian International School Hong Kong (AISHK), which offers both the IB DP and the Australian NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) curricula, provides an excellent learning environment for students to make the most of each programme, especially the IB. The teaching style and values employed throughout the school are very well matched to the IB programme.

'Our students tend to excel academically,' says Phillip Waugh, secondary principal and co-head of school at AISHK. 'This is because they're empowered and given choices over their education, and because they're given great guidance by their teachers. They learn in an environment where the focus is about making a positive difference in our community and achieving personal excellence.'

The school's IB programme offers a wide selection of subjects taught by teachers with exceptional understanding of the diploma programme. Currently, around a third of the school's senior students opt to do the IB DP. As a result, Waugh says, IB class sizes allow for more individual attention to be given to students as they progress through their coursework.

'Typically between 40 to 60 students undertake the IB programme, so you're not talking about huge class groupings, and students would have at least three subject choices offered to them in each timetable session,' he says.

'We offer a greater range of subjects than one might expect,' Waugh says. 'This is because we are creative in the way in which we do that.'

As the school also teaches the Australian HSC curriculum, they sometimes have the option of combining classes where course content is similar. This allows more subject options to be provided to students even when only a small number wish to undertake a subject.

AISHK has a large number of teaching staff with expertise and experience in teaching the IB DP, Waugh says. For example, their music teacher, Dr Anton Luiten, and mathematics teacher, Judith Chilton, are also IB workshop instructors, while other secondary teachers are IB examiners in their subjects.

'The fact that AISHK provides mentors for other teachers in the IB system is an indication of the quality of the programme we offer in our own school,' Waugh says.

To support the education programme, Waugh says the school has invested significantly in its facilities. 'The opportunity and the access to facilities here are second to none,' he says.

In the past year, the school has remodelled its library to reflect best practice. They have introduced a laptop programme in the primary and secondary divisions and installed Wi-Fi throughout the school. There's also an online learning platform that manages learning content and allows students and teachers to access curriculum resources anytime.

Waugh says the fantastic facilities at AISHK allow the school to deliver the kind of applied learning favoured in the IB DP.

'It gives students the opportunity to not just learn about how to do something but often to actually do it in real life, and that's the most effective way they learn,' he says.

Because the school embraces a teaching style which allows students to apply what they are learning, the IB curriculum is a good fit at AISHK as it seeks to enhance students' abilities to use what they learn in realistic and global contexts.

The school's design technology and science labs, for example, offer students the chance to use equipment that might be found only in a workplace setting. Students get many chances to be creative and test their understanding. In music, they are encouraged to apply the skills they acquire by taking part in the school orchestra and public recitals.

The school has a long-standing commitment to community service and self-challenge. Students participate in the Hong Kong Young Achievers Programme. They also undertake community service projects such as buildings village houses in Cambodia and working in Vietnamese and Indian orphanages.

'There is a genuine commitment to working to help those less fortunate in society, and for all of us to appreciate how fortunate we are to have the opportunities available to us in Hong Kong,' says Waugh.

These values leave the school well-placed to help students achieve the community, activity and service (CAS) element of the IB, which requires they do 50 hours of sport, creative and service activities.

Bryan Yuen, a student in his second year of AISHK's IB DP, agrees the programme encourages him to learn in different ways. He has found the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) classes interesting because they cover topics - such as ethics and politics - not readily covered in other classes. Research for a 4,000-word extended essay has helped him acquire a deeper understanding of maths.

'Because of the extended essay and TOK, the IB allows you to learn not only what's covered in each subject, but also to see the connections between subjects and learning generally,' he says.