Students at international schools in Hong Kong are learning through Google classrooms, vodcasts and other online platforms for the next four weeks, after the Education Bureau suspended all classes at all schools to help tackle the further spread of the Coronavirus.
There have been more than 20,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness worldwide since the outbreak began in Wuhan, China last December; at least 400 people have died. There are 15 confirmed cases of the virus in Hong Kong to date, and one man has died.
All special schools, kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have been closed since the Chinese New Year Holiday; they will not reopen until March 2 at the earliest. This is the second time in the 2019-20 academic year that international schools have been told to close; all classes were suspended for up to one week in November 2019 due to the ongoing protests across Hong Kong.
During the closure period, the EDB has urged schools to "make good use of e-learning, such as providing students with useful learning materials through emails, school websites, e-learning platforms and other effective means".
International schools are using various methods of home and online learning to minimise disruption to their students’ education.
The English Schools Foundation (ESF), which runs 22 international schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong, said that “while classes may have been suspended on the school premises, this does not mean that teaching and learning will stop”.
ESF’s director of education Adam Hughes said: “Our schools have been working hard over the past few days and weeks to put in place robust systems that will allow your child to use technology to continue with their learning online, at home.”
The ESF is building on the online learning programme it activated when classes were suspended last November, based on feedback from parents and students. This included calls for more support from teachers, an appropriate amount of work to get through, and a more structured timetable of work that is similar to a typical school day.
Mark Steed, principal and CEO at Kellett School, said: "The announcement of the closure of schools and kindergartens until March 2 will present a number of challenges for both schools and parents alike.
"No school can afford to lose a month’s teaching. This is especially true in the crucial GCSE and A Level years where the next couple of weeks were set aside for mock examinations.
"Once again, we will be calling on our home learning programmes with teachers setting and marking work through our online platform. In the senior school we are endeavouring to deliver a normal timetable using a combination of Google classroom, screencasts, vodcasts and video conferenced lessons. Thank goodness for technology."
And at The Harbour School, a Pre-K to Grade 12 international school with three campuses on Hong Kong Island, students are once again using a virtual classroom initiative called VC@T. This online interactive learning platform was launched during the school closures in November.
The school says: "THS rolled out VC@T 2.0 with the aim of minimising impact to school schedule and offers its students continued learning through a suite of online applications that will facilitate student-faculty and student-to-student communication; allow for the individual assessment of student work as well as group work; and operate on open-source and free-to-download applications tried and tested by teachers and students.
"For Prep to Grade 2, our younger students, teachers provided work by 5pm the day before so parents could print any work that may need to be brought home and the little ones could have greater support. We also began recording live sessions to be accessible to students who are not within an appropriate time zone.
"As for our senior students, we're actually extremely lucky in the approach we take. All of our seniors have completed their applications and we have already begun hearing from students around many offers around the world.
"Students who are completing AP exams have already been studying independently and we will need to wait to hear from external institutions to hear whether the exams will be postponed."