International Schools Exempt From Early Break

Education Secretary Kevin Yeung has announced that international schools in Hong Kong can continue with online teaching throughout March and April, while local schools will break early for the summer holiday in March.
International Schools Exempt From Early Break
By Carli Allan
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International schools in Hong Kong can continue with online teaching throughout March and April, while local schools will break early for the summer holiday in March. Education Secretary Kevin Yeung announced at a briefing today (February 28) that international schools are exempt from the mandate announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam last week to shift school summer holidays to March and April.

The news follows mounting pressure from parents and school leaders to continue online teaching and avoid any disruption caused by bringing the summer break forward. 

Hong Kong has reported about 5,000 new daily infections since February 15 and researchers predict that new infections could peak at a 180,000 a day next month, which threatens to overwhelm its healthcare system.

As part of measures to control the pandemic, the government announced last week to bring forward the July-August summer holidays to March and April so that schools can be turned into facilities for testing, isolation and vaccination. All kindergarten, primary and secondary classes at both local and international schools across Hong Kong have been closed since January – and students had (once again) moved to online learning.

There were concerns that the new holiday timing could affect exams, university applications and family vacations in July and August, when many expats typically return to their home countries. International schools are on a different academic calendar to local schools, and many international school teachers are also on contracts that end in June or July.

Acknowledging this, Yeung said: “There are some practical difficulties for international schools to remain open or perform teaching in July and August.

“Our main concern is always the benefit of the students. If international schools can’t have meaningful lessons in July and August and we force them to take early break in March and April, we are effectively taking away their learning hours.”

Local schools will resume teaching after the Easter holiday, with classes ending in August, said Yeung.

"The goal is that face-to-face classes can replace the home learning or online classes originally scheduled in March and April, so as to improve teaching effectiveness. In other words, in principle, the school will be closed from March 7 until the end of the school's Easter holiday, and then classes will continue until August 12."

Elementary School Principal at American International School, Linda Morrison, says the school has been well-prepared for the move to online moving during the past few weeks.

"At American International School, our key mindset is confidence. Naturally, as we prepared our community to transition to Online School, growing our students’ confidence remained at the forefront of our planning. AIS educators are highly experienced and well prepared to facilitate online learning, given our recent experience. Our talented faculty and strong academic programs help us to design interactive learning opportunities, where students can interact, collaborate, communicate, and cooperate with other students, as a way of keeping online learning engaging, inspiring, and fun.

"Whenever it is possible for students to return to campus, we have plans in place to reacquaint our students with face-to-face learning expectations and routines. Once again, our key mindset of confidence will continue to drive our academic and social-emotional learning programs as our students work towards our ESLRs and to coming to school every day. We can’t wait for that!"

Current social distancing measures, such as a ban on dining at restaurants after 6pm and the closure of businesses such as gyms and bars, have also been extended until April 20.

“This is not good news to the sectors affected, but really at this stage of the pandemic we have no choice but to take these measures,” Lam said.

Hong Kong has largely aligned itself with mainland China’s “zero-Covid-19” policy, which aims to totally stamp out outbreaks. At the same, many other countries are changing their approach to living with the virus.

Does your child attend an international school in Hong Kong? How do you feel about the ongoing school closures. Email us at [email protected]

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