Picking the cream of the crop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am

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Faced with having to whittle down more than 1,000 applicants for about 100 Primary One places, Direct Subsidy Scheme schools usually conduct two rounds of interviews. But how do they choose? Teachers and principals say character traits such as motivation to learn, concern for others and ability to maintain a cool head influence their decisions.

Here's how two elite schools say they go about the process.

Po Leung Kuk Camoes Tan Siu Lin Primary School, Yau Ma Tei

First round: youngsters are placed in small groups to work out a puzzle or build models with colourful bricks. This is followed by role-playing sessions in which they have to take on assigned parts in a particular setting - as managers, shop assistants and customers in a supermarket. Teachers base assessments on how the children interact with one another.

Second round: candidates fulfil tasks similar to those in the first round but wider and deeper in scope. Parents are also invited to discuss the school's educational philosophy.

Principal Derek Yeung Veng-meng says innocence, a collaborative and active spirit and English-language skills are among the attributes the school looks for. 'We are an English-medium school, so children must have good English listening and speaking skills. All interviews are conducted in English, with only a modicum of Cantonese or Putonghua allowed.'

Po Leung Kuk Lam Man Chan English Primary School, To Kwa Wan

First round: Children play sports and chess to give teachers a sense of how they get on in group situations.

Second round: Youngsters take turns to answer questions about their surroundings, families and friends, followed by question-and-answer sessions conducted in English to gauge their command of the language and common sense.

Principal Jessica Man Sze-wing says the ideal students should be lively and have presence of mind.

'It's OK if they don't know the answers to some questions,' she says. 'What matters most is how they respond to unfamiliar situations. If stumped, a quick-witted child might say that although he doesn't know the answer, he would find out later.'