[Sponsored Article] The Harbour School is fortunate to have in its community the enthusiastic support of many like-minded families who believe in the important changes THS is making to education. Ours is a village filled with amazing students, their families and staff who understand the importance of diversity and being part of a supportive community. As the school reached its first two major milestones last year - celebrating 10 years of providing progressive education in Hong Kong and watching its first graduating class go off to universities around the world - we invite a few THS parents to pause and reflect on why they chose to join the school. Here we hear from Kathryn Kwok, a five-year parent at THS, who joined before the school expanded to new campuses in Ap Lei Chau. Tell us a little bit about your family ? My husband and I grew up in Hong Kong. We went through the academic hardship of the local educational system and furthered our studies in USA during our teenage years (my husband left for boarding prep school; while I went to college upon completion of my HKCEE). You can say we are mixed products of Hong Kong and American education. After completing our college and graduate degrees, we lived and worked in New York for a few years before returning to Hong Kong in the mid 90s. We have been working together in the interior design business since 2000. My younger daughter, Valerie, is turning nine this October and currently a third grader at THS. This is her fifth year at the school. Why did you choose THS? First and foremost, I chose THS because of its nurturing learning environment. I like that THS is, intentionally, a small school. Compared to many schools in Hong Kong, it has small class size and Valerie’s teachers cares for and understands her as a whole person including her interests and passions. They grow her strengths by fostering confidence and nurture resilience in areas which need to be further developed. Another reason I chose THS is for its individualized approach to teaching. THS adopts the forward-looking view that everyone learns differently and has his/her individual strengths, interests, abilities and goals hence the best education is one which recognises these differences and teach to each student’s abilities, interests and goals. Whether it is learning support or learning extension, I feel that the school is always willing to work with us parents to figure out programs that best match our children’s specific needs. Last but certainly not least, there are the teachers. THS teachers are a special breed. They are energetic and devoted educators who are eager to connect and engage with their students. They encourage them to be creative and inquisitive, to make learning fun. Such teachers are important role models and critical in developing a life-long passion of learning in our children. What are the biggest benefits you see for your child? During her five years at THS, I have witnessed Valerie thrived. As a student, she is happy to go to school every morning and eager to do her best in every subject. As an individual, she is confident, outspoken and has developed a great passion for environmental issues and marine science. Wha t have been the biggest surprises about THS? THS is a forward-thinking learning community and I think one of the best things that has come out from being at THS is that Valerie understood at a very young age that not everyone is the same or learn the same way. She has learned to work with peers who think, act and learn differently from her and vice versa. Another big surprise for me is unlike many Hong Kong schools, there isn’t much homework giving Valerie plenty of time after school to explore other interests, play or simply rest. Wha t is the community like? THS is a small school but is growing steadily since it was granted the new campus - the Grove in Ap Lei Chau - from the Education Bureau. With 400 students from Pre-K to Grade 12 in three campuses in Kennedy Town and Ap Lei Chau, it still has a relatively small student community which is closely-knit. The student council is very active and would organise events such as “kids teach kids day”. There are also programs like Literacy buddies which pairs up a high school student with a student in Prep for reading. Other annual THS events such as the Arts Interim Week and Renaissance Faire give opportunities for different grades to work together in projects. The school play and theatre program is very inclusive and gives everyone who’s interested a part. As a result, my daughter knows almost every student and teacher in her campus, and everyone certainly knows her. The parent community is friendly and welcoming. It is an important part of the school. In particular, our PTA does a fantastic job organising many events and activities for parents to meet and socialise while supporting the school’s causes. THS is a very accessible school and there are many ways to participate in the parent community. However, these involvements are totally voluntary and there is no pressure from school to do so. Throughout my five years here as a THS parent, I have befriended many like-minded parents who shares the school’s vision. It is great to be part of this community. Any other points you wish to make? Our world is rapidly changing and so should our children’s education change to meet these changes. The ability to remember lots of information and perform well in exams no longer guarantee success. The 21st century workplace values people who are creative, who are critical thinkers and as a parent, I value an education that teaches my child resilience and instills confidence in her above and over exam preparation skills. I truly believe that THS can equip my daughter with these attributes to “unlock her best”.