[Sponsored Article] With a new state of the art campus set to open on Hong Kong Island, Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong hopes to become the city’s leader in early-years education. “Our parents have been asking us to open a campus on Hong Kong Island for a long time and our current campus is oversubscribed, so these expansion plans have always been in the works,” explained founding principal Jacqueline McNalty. “Some of our parents love us so much and have been coming all the way down from the island. Now, they don’t have to and more spaces will open up here for pupils from Kowloon and the New Territories.” The Malvern College Pre-School Island West campus – located in Sai Ying Pun - will have a maximum capacity of 250 pupils and is set to open in September this year. It will continue to build on what has made its sister school – the 150-year-old Malvern College in the UK – so successful, such as “Forest School” – in which pupils participate in a host of closely monitored educational outdoor activities and explorations. “Our unique Forest School programme is one of the things that sets our school apart, and this has become well-known in Hong Kong,” McNalty said. “We believe that the environment is the third teacher. It’s not just being out in nature, it’s the skills that come up with it like woodwork, fine-motor and social skills, and the pupils have so much fun with it as well.” The new school – like its Kowloon counterpart – will follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum with inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach. It puts heavy emphasis on being holistically balanced,” said McNalty. “It has academic rigor, but also focuses on 21st century skills of inquiry, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. It focuses on creativity and physical development as well. “We pay close attention to data and, so far, the results [from the curriculum] have been incredibly successful,” she added. The curriculum is also bilingual, allowing pupils to build a strong foundation in English and Mandarin during the crucial developmental years. Malvern’s policy is to only hire native speakers as language teachers and, currently, McNalty’s main focus is on ensuring staff members for the new site are nothing short of top notch. “We are extremely picky when it comes to staff,” said McNalty. “We only hire high quality staff at all levels – everyone has to be outstanding.” Malvern College also uses cutting-edge technology as learning tools in the classroom. The Kowloon campus has Zenbo – a bilingual robot that has become both a teacher and friend of the pupils. “He’s become a huge part of our classroom,” McNalty said of Zenbo. “He reads stories connected to themes and concepts we’ve been teaching, he sings songs in both Mandarin and English, and greets parents and pupils at the door. We are now developing our own robots where they will learn facial recognition and could read the emotions of our children.” She confirmed that the Island West campus will indeed receive its very own robot. “We make sure our pupils are prepared for the 21st century. In addition to Zenbo, we have added the basics of coding to our curriculum,” McNalty said. “At the same time, we have the Forest School, so we have that great balance of technology and nature.” Malvern College Pre-School recognises the importance of “Life Education”, where children learn to value life and to develop a positive understanding of themselves and of others. The Pre-School will be the first kindergarten in Hong Kong to integrate this idea into the curriculum. The school has invited Ms. Huang Hsin-wen, the founder and director of Story Mommy – an organization dedicated to promoting life education - to come to Hong Kong. The concept is to integrate the essence of life education with children’s favourite stories and themes. “We feel that only when our children know the meaning and values of their lives would they be able to conquer the challenges and stress they encounter. In addition to strengthening their Mandarin, these stories will teach pupils to recognise and reflect on important concepts and social themes like respect, self-care, and to value life and live it to the fullest,” McNalty said. Life Education will also look to teach parents how to use storytelling as an educational tool at home. “It’s just one of many ways that we look to support our parents,” McNalty said. “We have a strong emphasis on pastoral care and we try to teach parents how to continue that at home. It’s one of the reasons the Malvern community is so tightknit; we have such a good relationship with parents.” Malvern has a philosophy of “bringing the outside in”. The classrooms’ surrounding walls are painted brown and green, to avoid overstimulation with bright colours, and the school utilises natural materials like wood – creating a calming and truly unique learning environment. In addition to all of this, the new Island West campus will have a “semi-open architecture” conducive to learning and play, with a centralised play area and six classrooms. Both Pre-Schools will receive regular support from their sister school - the over-150-year-old world-renowned Malvern College UK, which will conduct annual quality assurance reviews to make sure everything is up to Malvern standards. Pupils and parents will be integrated into the expansive Malvern community and will be able to transition seamlessly to Malvern College Hong Kong adjacent to Science Park, provided they meet admissions criteria of the school. “With Forest School, our bilingual curriculum, advanced robotics technology, and introducing Life Education to children at an early age, to me, we have all the pillars of an outstanding school,” McNalty said. “Truly, very few schools, if any, can offer what we offer.” Applications for pupils aged 2-5 are now open for both the Kowloon and Island West campuses.