Tiny Almitas school leaves pupils more relaxed, say parents

They come home less moody and more relaxed after switching to academy with just 11 pupils

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 4:22am

Parents who send their children to an unconventional school that has just 11 pupils say the youngsters now return home less moody and more relaxed.

But the tiny-class approach at the Almitas Academy - founded by Yeo Peck Leng, wife of executive councillor Bernard Chan, for their own two children - has not impressed everyone.

Yeo said some parents questioned her use of "tough love".

Louise Ng sent her Primary Four son to the academy in September after he spent three years in a government school.

Back then, the family stayed home all weekend to make sure he finished all his assignments.

Ng said her son became increasingly emotional and "the whole family was having quarrels every day".

She said his concentration had improved at his new school.

Chan Hsieh Yin-yin, another parent, also observed her 10-year-old's changing character since he left his international school.

"His piano teacher told me he no longer cries when he can't practise well," Chan said.

But Yeo said the educational experiment had been far from smooth and some parents had struggled with the teaching style.

"For example, I tell the teachers to instruct the kids' handwriting rather stringently, because I dealt with my sons in the same manner," she said.

Some parents rejected this repetitive training style, but she said they were free to resort to their own methods at home if they felt their children were being overburdened.

But those who endured appeared to be mentally healthier than during their previous learning experiences, Yeo said.

She hopes to expand the school to accommodate growing demand, but is finding it hard to find a suitable new site.

Almitas is a Christian school that focuses on building character and teaching Bible-based values.

The annual tuition fee is HK$60,000 and it has six teachers.

Some schools that did not share the same philosophy might be reluctant to rent out space, she said, and she was negotiating with the Education Bureau.

But she said the current location in North Point could accommodate up to 30 pupils.

The current Almitas pupils are aged from six to 12, with about a third of them having special needs.

Yeo, from Singapore, said she hoped to introduce a scholarship programme for children from poorer families.

Her eldest son Brandon, 12, is now at an international secondary school, while brother Bradley, nine, is still at Almitas.