“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong an­swer—it’s very child-spe­cific” —Gul­nar Vaswani

Hong Kong Tatler - - Schools Guide | Roundtable -

to go at all. Schools work on chrono­log­i­cal age, but there’s so much more to kids than that—there’s emo­tional age, men­tal readi­ness, and developmental age.

Kelly Gave (KG): I’m def­i­nitely for what­ever is best for the child. Our el­dest is 11 years old and is ask­ing to go to board­ing school. He is very sporty, plays rugby, and a lot of his English, Cana­dian and Aus­tralian friends are leav­ing to go to board­ing schools—quite of­ten for sports. Our two el­dest sons are re­ally max­ing out here from a sport­ing per­spec­tive, so al­though we have de­cided not to force the is­sue of board­ing school—we would never do that—we do see it as a very healthy op­tion at this point. I think you have to pick the right thing for the right child.

Sooni: Do you be­lieve Hong Kong’s schools pro­vide ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren’s needs?

Christy: I can only speak from the per­spec­tive of a lo­cal school—if the stu­dent is set on ma­tric­u­lat­ing into a Hong Kong univer­sity, then I would say yes, the ed­u­ca­tion pro­vided is ex­actly what a lo­cal univer­sity wants. If a lo­cally ed­u­cated stu­dent were plan­ning to study over­seas, how­ever, I would say there is some room for im­prove­ment be­cause our stu­dents stum­ble when it comes to univer­sity in­ter­views. Our aca­demics and IB scores are stel­lar, but ad­mis­sions tu­tors want so much more than just a list of ex­tracur­ric­u­lars, su­per­cur­ric­u­lars and aca­demics. They want to know if stu­dents can think crit­i­cally when they en­counter a prob­lem they’ve never seen be­fore. And whether or not they have the per­son­al­ity and pas­sion to match.

Kelly: From an aca­demic per­spec­tive, we’ve been very happy with HKIS; it’s on the sports side that we feel things lack­ing in Hong Kong. I do feel that go­ing to board­ing school in­stils a level of in­de­pen­dence in kids be­fore they are thrown in at the deep end at univer­sity. Board­ing school is a bit of a half­way house be­tween home and univer­sity; they would still be nur­tured, but they don’t have some­one walk­ing around pick­ing up af­ter them con­stantly. It also makes get­ting into top uni­ver­si­ties eas­ier. We were told in no un­cer­tain terms by one univer­sity that it would be eas­ier to get our kids in from some­where else than Hong Kong, be­cause quo­tas are small and get eaten up quickly by lo­cal Hong Kong kids with per­fect IB scores.

Sue: I have to say that Lawrenceville, in the US, is a won­der­ful place to study. It em­ploys the Harkness method of teach­ing, so ev­ery sin­gle sub­ject is like a dis­cus­sion amongst stu­dents and their peers, with min­i­mal in­ter­ven­tion from the teach­ers. There is noth­ing like that in Hong Kong; in lo­cal schools, the chil­dren are of­ten too scared to even ask ques­tions, let alone take part in lively dis­cus­sions. They don’t foster that open­ness in Hong Kong schools.

Gul­nar: My kids have been at Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional, Har­row Hong Kong and now HKIS—SO I can tell you that the cur­ricu­lum of­fered at these schools, es­pe­cially HKIS, is as solid as any­thing we saw at the New Eng­land schools. But the prob­a­bil­ity of get­ting your kids into a top Ivy League or UK univer­sity is prob­a­bly higher if they are al­ready at board­ing school in that coun­try.

Sooni: What are you look­ing for in terms of ed­u­ca­tional con­tent and qual­ity?

Christy: I think Hong Kong schools do a great job—a good mea­sure of that is the IB scores, which are con­sis­tently high. Ed­u­ca­tional qual­ity is more sub­jec­tive and harder to mea­sure. To me, it is best par­al­leled in this way: are you teach­ing my child how to de­rive an equa­tion or are you just forc­ing him to mem­o­rise as many equa­tions as pos­si­ble? One style of teach­ing gives you a stu­dent who is able to think crit­i­cally and un­der­stand con­cepts, then ap­ply those to other prob­lems at univer­sity and, later in life, solve prob­lems at work. The other gives you a stu­dent who is great at re­gur­gi­ta­tion but stum­bles when he or she en­coun­ters some­thing new.

Sue: Kids who at­tend board­ing schools of­ten find it much eas­ier to get into top uni­ver­si­ties abroad. My son is now in Cor­nell and made the tran­si­tion eas­ily from Lawrenceville through coun­cil­lors, who help with the ap­pli­ca­tion process and cus­tomise it for stu­dents.

Kelly: I’m look­ing for more than just aca­demics; that said, there are schools abroad that do of­fer a broader aca­demic reach. Hong Kong and Hong Kong schools re­main quite in­su­lar. The ques­tion of board­ing school has al­ready come up be­cause in Hong Kong, sports are just so lim­ited, even for an 11-year-old. As he is so fo­cused on sports, he needs to be in an en­vi­ron­ment where he can ex­pe­ri­ence more va­ri­ety on ev­ery level.

Gul­nar: In terms of its val­ues and what HKIS stands for, it is very much aligned with our fam­ily val­ues. And this is es­sen­tial—i think there has to be a mar­riage be­tween schools and fam­i­lies and the child’s own align­ment with these.

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