Confused between a Steiner and a Montessori or a PIS and a DSS? This glossary provides an explanation of the terms used in our tables ACAMIS: The Association of China and Mongolia International Schools, which has 25 member schools in mainland China, Mongolia and Hong Kong, the latter including Chinese International School, Hong Kong Academy Primary School, Hong Kong International School and the Australian International School Hong Kong. Council of International Schools (CIS): The global offshoot of the European Council of International Schools (ECIS), which provides accreditation, among other services. Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS): Under the scheme, schools receive government subsidies similar to those for aided schools. But DSS schools can also charge fees and enjoy greater independence and flexibility in terms of management, curriculum and student admission. So far, 56 schools have joined. English as a Second Language (ESL): Programmes designed to help non-native English speakers learn the language more quickly. Also known as English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) and English as an additional language (EAL). General Certificate of Education (GCE): An internationally recognised qualification offered by three British examination boards approved by Britain's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. GCE A-levels are equivalent to Hong Kong A-levels. Since 2000 they have been divided into two parts - the AS-level taken after the first year of senior secondary education and the A2 after the second and final year. General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE): British public exams offered by the same exam boards as GCE A-levels for 14 to 16-year-olds. Equivalent to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education, although grading for both GCSEs and GCE A-levels is more generous than the Hong Kong exams. An international version, the IGCSE, has syllabi adapted for students studying outside Britain. Hong Kong A-level Examination (HKALE): Public exam delivered by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) and normally taken at the end of Secondary Seven. Twenty A-level subjects and 19 AS-levels are available. Most students take exams in five subjects, and can take the exam in either Chinese or English. The exam qualifies students for study in Hong Kong and overseas universities. Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE): Public exam taken by Secondary Five students, which determines their entry to Secondary Six. Students can take up to 10 subjects - 44 are offered - although most take seven or eight. Students who receive six or more A grades can apply to universities through the Early Admission Scheme, exempting them from the HKALE. HKCEEs and A-levels are due to be replaced from 2009 by the new Hong Kong Diploma in Education, with exams taken at the end of Secondary Six. International English Language Testing System (IELTS): International language assessment developed by the University of Cambridge ESOL (Cambridge English for Speakers of Other Languages) Examinations and administered in more than 100 countries by the British Council and IDP Education, Australia. It is required for study in Australia and is widely used as an entrance qualification for tertiary education elsewhere. In Hong Kong, it is used as a language test for graduating university students. Some schools prepare students for IELTS tests. For details, visit www.ielts.org Information and Communications Technology (ICT): Many schools emphasise that students learn such computer skills. The subject is offered as a major of study in many Hong Kong universities. International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO): The IBO, headquartered in Geneva but with its curriculum centre in Cardiff, Wales, was founded in the 1960s to develop a curriculum tailored for international schools. It now offers three programmes - the Diploma, Middle Years and Primary Years. All three promote broad, enquiry-based learning with a strong global perspective. For more information about the IBO visit www.ibo.org IB Diploma: This is a pre-university programme for ages 16 to 19 and is a popular, although rigorous, alternative to A-levels. Students study six subjects, three at standard level and three at higher. These must include their first language, a second language, and one subject from each of four curriculum areas: individuals and society; experimental sciences; maths and computers sciences; and the arts. In addition, they must complete the more philosophical Theory of Knowledge course and the Creativity, Action and Service programme. They must also write a 4,000-word extended essay on a research topic. IB Middle Years Programme (MYP): For students aged 11 to 16, who study a wide range of subjects taught through five core principles - approaches to learning; health and social education; environment; community and service; and homo faber (man's impact on the environment). They must also complete a 4,000-word piece of independent writing, involving extensive research. IB Primary Years Programme (PYP): For children aged three to 12. The most flexible of the IB programmes, it covers traditional subjects but with an inquiry-based, cross-curricular approach, organised around six key themes, including language, maths, social studies, arts, science and technology, and personal, social and physical education. Montessori Method: An approach to teaching developed by Italian educationalist Maria Montessori (1870-1952) that focuses on developing children's natural curiosity through self-directed learning. Manipulable, concrete learning equipment is used to enable children to learn through their different senses. Montessori also advocated that children should be taught in multi-age classrooms, so they could learn from each other. There are now thousands of Montessori schools around the world, from pre-school to secondary levels. Montessori schools may be accredited by the Montessori Centre International or recognised by the Association Montessori Internationale, both founded by Maria Montessori. For information, visit www.montessori.ac.uk and www.montessori-ami.org National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS): Organisation representing about 1,200 independent schools in the US and overseas. Chinese International School is a member. PIS: Private Independent Schools. Schools that, since 1999, have received government land and capital grant for construction, but are otherwise financially independent. Up to 70 per cent of their students must be permanent residents. They are free to choose their own curricula and admission policies. Standard Assessment Tasks (SATs): Tests to assess students' achievements in the National Curriculum of England and Wales, taken at the end of each key stage, at ages seven, 11 and 13. Although the tests are not obligatory for schools following this curriculum outside Britain, many in Hong Kong do set them, including ESF schools. SAT (American): An examination required for admission into American universities. It is split into three sections: Critical Reading, Maths, and Writing. Each section is scored on a scale of 200-800. Some independent schools in Hong Kong prepare students for the SAT. Steiner Waldorf schools: These espouse the approach of German philosopher Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). They emphasise developing the whole child, including spiritual, physical, aesthetic and moral, rather than early formal learning. There are around 3,000 Steiner schools and pre-schools around the world, although Highgate House is the only one in Hong Kong. Also known as Waldorf schools, Steiner having opened his first school for children of employees working in the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart. Visit www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language. Assesses students' abilities in written and spoken English. It is often used as an entrance requirement for international students applying to western universities. WASC: Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Accredits public and private schools, colleges and universities in the United States. Several international schools in Hong Kong use its services for quality assurance. Hong Kong International School and American International School are examples of WASC accredited schools. Y2K/millennium schools: New, upgraded standard for local school campuses built from 2000, with larger classrooms and space for a wider range of activities. Several new DSS schools have been allocated Y2K campuses built by the government. Useful web links www.emb.gov.hk About education in Hong Kong, the website of the Education and Manpower Bureau. www.scmp.com The online version of this guide, including live links to all the schools listed. www.classmateasia.com A guide to international pre-schools and international schools in Hong Kong, the mainland and Macau. www.shambles.net A guide to the region's international schools, including Hong Kong and the mainland, plus a teaching and learning resource.