Hong Kong / New Territories / Tai Po / American School Hong Kong

American School Hong Kong Experience

Since opening its doors in Tai Po in 2016, American School Hong Kong (ASHK) has been delivering a US-based education to elementary students, along with a strong focus on STEAM and Chinese language learning.
At a glance
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
HKD 175,000
Annual fees
HKD 146,000 - 187,500
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Aug to Jun
Principal
John Jalsevac
Owner
Esol Education
Community
Main teacher nationality
United States of America
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LET'S GO

First impressions

• Warm and friendly atmosphere
• Modern buildings
• Set within a quiet and tree-lined, residential neighbourhood



ASHK is located in the renovated premises of a former government secondary school – and next door to an existing government secondary school. Only open since 2016, it still has all the clean, fresh and modern hallmarks of a newly renovated campus. Located in the New Territories, where there is a growing choice of international schools, ASHK is located at the end of a quiet and leafy no-through road; it’s also close to Tai Po Market station which makes it easily accessible from anywhere in Hong Kong.

There are no security barrier gates at the school, but we did have to sign in with a security guard at the entrance.

Read our review of ASHK here.

Campus tour

• Well-equipped specialist classrooms for all grades
• Large library and sports hall
• Space for ASHK to expand into an all-through school
• Well-resourced classrooms
• Plans underway to ‘beautify’ the campus

ASHK took over a government school that left behind large classrooms and a decent outdoor space that can be lacking in many international schools. It’s a vertical campus with the younger students on the lower floors, and specialist rooms shared by KG up to Grade 8 students across all floors of the seven-storey building.

School director John Jalsevac says:

“We are an American international school. Our curriculum is American-based. Our approach to teaching and learning is American-based.”

As one of only a few US-style schools in Hong Kong, you may expect ASHK to have an American feel to it. In fact, the school feels almost ‘bare’ in places. After walking through the reception, where you are greeted with a wonderful display of hanging lanterns made by the students for the Moon Festival, there are only a few displays of student work, art and colour in the common areas and corridors. It’s a problem that Jalsevac is very keen to address. The school has recently launched a ‘beautification committee’, chaired by Jalsevac, to improve the campus by replacing the “sleek, clean and office-like décor” with colourful, school-like elements such as murals and installations.

ASHK is clearly a school that is constantly adapting to meet the needs of its students. For example, the basketball court is about to be replaced with an artificial turf pitch, because “there’s a greater interest in football than basketball”.



During our tour, we saw well-equipped specialist facilities that are used by all students.

“There are eight periods a day and five days a week in the timetable. Out of those 40 periods, specialist teachers teach five Chinese, three PE, two music, two art and one library session every week. We really dedicate resources to those specialist subjects.”






We saw two large, well-lit labs with STEAM kits and workspaces where science is taught both as a standalone subject and as an integrated STEAM unit. We also visited an art room, where a specialist teacher was taking a KG class to learn about “how lines can express emotions and feelings”. In the music room, Grade 7-8 students were warming up with their wind and brass instruments. It was a wonderfully noisy, loud, and musical room to walk into – with plenty of rehearsal space and shelves lined with various instruments.

“Every student has their own instrument and they are all at different stages, but we come together as an orchestra band to play the same piece of music in this music. From KG to Grade 8 there are pathways that take them from the basics of rhythm and music appreciation into vocals, wind instruments and bands.”

All students attend daily Chinese lessons in dedicated classrooms, where they learn traditional and simplified Chinese writing; this is supported by several after-school Chinese programmes including conversation, kung-fu, calligraphy and orchestra.

Jalsevac says: “Our team here is very strong in ensuring that the child learns the language, but they are taking a very Western, engaging and fun approach to teaching and learning that inspires children. Far too often, learning a second language becomes boring, and the children tune out. It doesn’t happen here because we follow a very creative approach to teaching.”

Although students spend 13 periods a week in one of the many specialist rooms, for the majority of their time they are in their homeroom. These vary from the very colourful KG rooms with plenty of activity stations, artwork on the walls, and learning zones, through to IB-style classrooms for the higher grades with less ‘decorated’ walls, round desks and flexible layouts.






A KG2 homeroom teacher Samantha Pelstring said:

“Everything is low to the ground because we want everything to be accessible to the students. This is their classroom, not mine. Throughout the day, we’re doing reading, writing, STEAM activities, working on iPads and using the classroom library.”

The younger grades have larger classrooms, all rooms are well-lit with windows looking onto the corridor and the outdoors, and space is freed up within the classrooms by having cubbies in the corridors. We saw many examples of interactive learning tools in different classrooms, including word walls, and regular messages about STEAM.



In every classroom, we saw plenty of engagement between the teacher and students, saw positive learning environments, and observed confident and happy children. The class sizes are small here, but that will change as the school enrols more students. There is certainly the space and resources for a larger student body if the school meets its capacity for 950 students.

In a Grade 2 class of 17 students, we saw the homeroom teacher finish a maths lesson and move onto a reading class; students were seated around circular tables, working on books selected from their classroom library.

At the heart of the school is a large library, with well-stocked shelves, digital resources and desks; it’s a flexible space that can be reconfigured for large and small groups, STEAM sessions and library sessions focusing on digital citizenship, authors, research skills and literature. During our visit, we saw a Grade 1 class having a Chinese reading lesson, with children seated happily on cushions on the floor.






The school has a collection of more than 7,600 books, as well as e-books for the older students. There are plans to open a second library for the high school students, as part of a larger plan to expand ASHK’s facilities for Grades 9-12.

“The top three floors of the school have not yet been renovated. Once we have a significant cohort in the high school, in about two years. We will have more labs, classrooms, specialist space and a library.”

The school community comes together for break-times, and there is a large canteen with lower tables and stools for the younger children, and benches and chairs for the older students. And, as well as the outdoor court on the ground floor, there is a large refurbished sports hall. It’s an impressive space that’s used for special events and assemblies, as well as for PE classes.



While it may still be a small school in terms of numbers – there are currently 230 students – ASHK immerses its students in a full-scale programme of activities. We saw photos of events including an opening day assembly, Chinese New Year celebration, school choir performing at Disneyland, and a Thanksgiving picnic.

 

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