[SCMP Archive] Quality over quantity: New HKIS expansion plans focused on providing world-class student service
[First published on Oct 29, 1975] Over the years, International School, the only American-type school in Hong Kong has been trying very hard to study and determine the essential needs of its students.
The school strives to develop an educational programme assisting the students in finding their place and role in society. This programme has to be adjustable to an ever-changing world; therefore the needs of the students apply not only to the academic field but also an overall study of the responsibilities undertaken by each individual.
International School ureges its students to convert their knowledge into practical use since, going through learning processes by rote is never recommended. Hence, the curriculum includes selective courses encouraging students to learn not only for the sake of gaining knowledge but for them to adapt themselves with confidence, to an increasingly complex environment.
Mr Christian, headmaster of HKIS, claims: “Our role in the school is not to make people more alike but to actually emphasis their differences.” This indicates the school’s concern for the students to recognize their different individual interests and abilities that have to be applied to the well-being of the society.
Most people get the impression that International School is a purely American school. This is a false concept; it is an institute run along the lines of an American school and is geared towards an American education.
Non-American students who are admitted are not forced to give up their cultural roots, attitudes or values. On the contrary these boys and girls are well aware of their own racial values and differences.
Another interesting feature is the strong interlink between the school, the parent and the student. Even in the higher levels where students have moved along to greater independence, parental contact with the school is still very active. Case conferences are also held twice a year where parents, students and teachers sit down for discussions related to the welfare of the specific individual students. This in itself is an unusual procedure even for American schools.
The parents, especially the mothers, volunteer in the actual school prgramme. A Mothers’ Club is extremely helpful towards this school programme.
Whenever possible, outdoor education is pursued whereby the whole student body and the entire administrative staff spend a week or so camping out, practising mapping and survival skills.
Instead of a marking system, students receive comments for the school indicating their progress in academic work.
Basic qualifications for admission into the school is that the non-American students are required to take a test and an interview. Most important of all requirements is that students are expected to have a sufficient background in English.
HKIS students often involve themselves in social work and find that the language barrier does not discourage them from working for a worthy cause.
School fees are relatively stiff and the explanation for this is that most students who are admitted tend to pursue further education in the United States. Being able to afford this, they are naturally expected to measure up to the fairly stiff school expenses.
The school admits that it is not sure whether its system would be most appropriate for individuals deciding to live and study locally.
Where vocational prospects are concerned, HKIS students are exposed to all sorts of models of professions,
In fact most senior high graduates do not really have a career choice make until after about three years until they are in the university level.
Because of the element of change in a highly technological society like the United States, many of the jobs that most young people will be taking up ar present come into existence.
HKIS is not concerned with quantity in terms of expansion. However, with new and renovated plans, it hopes to expand in quality rather that in quantity.
Gradually it will be able to offer programmes which will prove beneficial to the growing number of the non-growing number of the non-American community within the school. Expansion in other words will lie in terms of quality of services to the students themselves.
To get a better insight of HKIS, I went with my associate, Mr Herbert Hui, to interview some of the students.
We were very lucky in that the students we interviewed were very informative and frank. Here is a summary of what some of the students said:
Miss Ching Man-tze:
“I came here from Taiwan five year ago. I had studied at an Anglo-Chinese School before and on comparing the two, I find HKIS has better facilities such as a good library. Also, there is a wide choice of subjects, some of which are unheard of in other schools – ceramics, vehicle repairing, computer science. While not saying that absolute authority is bad, a student should have a certain amount of right and this is what we have in this school”
Miss Linda Towery:
“I am proud of this school because it is the only one of its kind in Hong Kong and yet it has managed so well alone. I also think the teacher student relationship is fantastic. This is because of the half-hour programme you can have with an advisor. During this time, a lot of things get straightened out just by talking. As regards anything extra we need, there are tennis courts and another building – but these are not essentials, the essential needs are filled.”
Mr Tommy Lo:
“I don’t think there was, is or will be a racial problem in this school. Sure, the Chinese want to hang around with other Chinese while Americans want to hang around with fellow Americans. But it doesn’t mean they dislike or hate the other. I don’t think a non-American studying here will lose his identity – I am a Korean and I am always praising Korea in class. Also I think the school is doing a great job with its PTA meetings, judging from the attendances at these.”
Mr Alan Nigar:
“International School is always linked with the United States, but I do not think the school is as American as people tend to think it is. We have to wear our school uniforms, unlike our counterparts in the U.S. Moreover, there is no particular emphasis on American sports. In fact the only thing that is 100 per cent American is the academic field.”
Miss Joan Cronenberg:
Since this is only my first term, I don’t think that I say much. However, this school, when compared to the one I went to in Singapore, is much more liberal. It enables you to become more independent and in a way this is a good idea. I have also noticed it is less strict – but, amazingly, the students seem better behaved than those in Singapore.”
Mr Constant Cha:
“I am also new to this school, having studied in a local school before. But if I have to make a comparison between the two I would say that both have their good points. I find the people there more easy to get along with. I came to this school in order to get accustomed to American schools and I am sure I have made the right decision.”