[SCMP Archive] Gifted students set to tackle university course
[First published on 04 July, 1991] Some of the territory’s brightest teenagers will be learning mathematics and English from American university professors this summer-courtesy of the Hong Kong International School (HKIS).
The American-run school is offering a three week accelerated learning programme to 55 of Hong Kong’s most academically gifted 13- and 14-year- olds.
The students will not be asked to pay to participate. Mrs Kathleen Cotter, director of external affairs at Hong Kong International School, said the programme had been extablished to increase the school’s involvement in the community and give something back to Hong Kong.
Mrs Cotter says the school decided to give something back in the form of a summer school after being informed the programmed for talented students were in short supply.
During the three weeks of the summer school, the students will focus on learning mathematics and English, American style.
The pace will be fast – in three weeks they will cover a maths curriculum it would normally take six months to get through.
Immersing the students in American-style education carries the risk that they may become confused and, to guard against this, a special maths curriculum combining the Chinese and American systems has been devised.
Class size will be limited to 14 to ensure the students receive as much personal attention as possible.
HKIS registrar, Mr Beatrice Chung Bak-fai, says the students will benefit from learning in small classes.
Mr Chung, who is in charge of implementing the programme, was born and educated in Hong Kong.
She says that local students, accustomed to sitting passively in classes of 45, often encounter difficulties when they go on to college and are expected to contribute to classroom discussions.
“The students have no chance to contribute their ideas or to think. You just sit in class, you go home, you read and you produce,” Ms Chung says.
“Not that these students are expected to have problems contributing or coping – to be accepted, each student had to make the top 10 per cent of his form in maths and had to pass an English test.
The English test took the form of an essay in which the students were asked to outline their reasons for wanting to participate in the programme.
Mrs Cotter says many students mentioned the attraction of studying with American university professors.
The four university professors who will be teaching on the course have all been trained by the Centre for Talented Youth, operated by John Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States.
One of them now teaches at Stanford University in California. Two members of the school’s staff will also be teaching the summer school.
The programme will be held at the school’s Tai Tam facility from July 26 to August 15.
The daily diet will be four hours of maths and two hours of English but it is not intended that the three weeks will be all work: each day will also contain a 90-minute slot for sports and recreation.
Financial support is being offered by Amoco Chemical Corp and the Sir Robert Black Trust Fund.
If all goes well this year, the school hopes to double the number of students to about 100 next year.
The Hong Kong International School was established 25 year ago with a grant from the Lutheran Church and Dow Chemicals.
Today, the school has about 1,850 primary and secondary students of 40 nationalities.