[SCMP Archive] An American education-Authentic US curriculum offered at Hong Kong International School
[First published on Jan 07, 1968] This is the Hong Kong International School, the only school in Hong Kong which offers an American curriculum and programme.
Sponsored by the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), the school building cost $5,350,000. It has seven stories, with 32 classrooms, a large gymnasium, library and cafeteria. It has a capacity for 750 students. The school is simply decorated and at the same time, well –equipped.
There is a teaching staff of 35, most of whom come from the United State and are graduates of training colleges in American. Many of them have taught all over the world, before coming to Hong Kong to teach here. There are teachers from kindergarten to Grade 12, which is equivalent to form VI, in local schools.
The school is international in character. Although the students are 80 per cent Americans, there are citizens of more than 15 countries in the school. They include Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, England and there are also 70 Chinese students.
“I have the greatest admiration for our Chinese students in the school, ”Mr Robert Christian, the headmaster added. “they can handle two languages quite adequately. This is seldom found in other countries.
“The greatest trouble for the Chinese students of course, is the limited extent of vocabulary in their English, especially when it comes to technical terms in some subjects. On the other hand, many of the Chinese students have rated quite high in their work in mathermatics.”
The international school officially opened on September 14. When the school was still being completed during the 1966-1967 academic year, a provisional primary school was conducted in rented premises in Chung Am Kok Road, near Stanley.
Since the school follows an American curriculum, all text books come from the United States, said Mr Christian.
There is a large degree of flexibility within the curriculum, especially in the upper grades, where students are able to select various subjects from those offered by the school.
The subjects are not limited to pupils in specific grades so it is not unusual to find students from three or four different classes taking the same subject.
Some of the special subjects taught at International are psychology, sociology, earth science, American history, American government, communications, physical science and social studies.
There is also a reading specialist who works with the pupils to help them improve their English skills.
For most of the students in the communication class English is not their first language. To help them overcome their shyness and difficulties in expressing themselves in English, students participate in various activities. They give talks about newspaper cutting, or act out situations and describe the meaning of things to the rest of the class. In the way, they lose themselves in the activity and become natural in their use of the language.
Mrs Dorothy Mache conducts an experimental art class. All the pupils in this class attend on a voluntary basis. They are left to themselves to experiment with the making of figurines, sculpture, ‘op’art, or whatever they like. Many different kinds of materials are used. The students find out for themselves the values and uses of various media to express themselves, and to create.
There is also a student counselor, Dr Fred Staubach, who advises students in both academic and personal problems.
Is it easier for students of the international school to enter American universities?
Mr Christian said that there were no by-passes to entrance into universities in America offered through attending the International School.
A students who wished to be accepted at an American university must have a satisfactory school report and recommendation, and must have acceptable marks in English and mathematics in the College Board Entrance Examinations Test.
However, being a student at the International would assist students in university applications because of the continuous usage of English, as well as the approach to the American curriculum acquired white-studying at International
Is there a long waiting list at the school?
The headmaster told Sunday Post-Herald that since the school was so new, there were still vacancies in some of the classes. However, additional reservations for students were being received constantly, especially from students in the United States who would be moving to Hong Kong and the enrollment was steadily rising from its present 650 students to its capacity of 750.
What are the qualifications for entrance into the school?
Mr Christian said that all students residing in Hong Kong who applied for entrance to the school were given written examinations which included English comprehension and composition. Proficiency in English was important, he went on to say, because all subjects were taught in English.
The second language taught in the school is French.
There are many extra-curricular activities such as the school newspaper, yearbook, debating club, glee club and band. Physical education classes are held daily in the school and every afternoon, the students participate in after school sport, such as swimming, athletics, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball and badminton.
With the completion of the gymnasium, there will be four badminton courts, three volleyball courts and two basketball courts.
The student Council, which also carries some responsibilities for students behavior, is very active in developing a variety of programmes, ranging from service activities to social function.
It has been said that the International School is a luxury school, since the annual school fees per student in some cases might be higher that the wages of some workers in Hong Kong for an entire year.
The headmaster, when asked about this replied: “I certainly cannot call this a luxury school. We have good facilities and a capable staff, very comparable to other Hong Kong schools and the United States.”
The fee were high compared to other Hong Kong schools, but actually the cost of one student in the school was not as high as the amount spent on one student in many of the schools in the United States.
In addition, the costs here were greatly increased since the textbooks and materials came from the US. Many of the teachers were brought here from the U.S. and the cost of the building must largely be covered through the collection of school fees.
“The school has no income besides what is received through the tuition receipts from the students,” he added.