Discovery Bay International School is an all-through independent school that offers a well-rounded British-style education including IGCSEs and A Levels.
First impressions really count, and Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) certainly gives you a warm welcome with its beachside setting. There aren’t many schools that can brag about having a sweeping sandy shore on its doorstep. While this isn’t a good enough reason for any parent to select this all-though British school, its distinctly personalised approach to learning may be. Also, as well as offering IGCSEs, DBIS has recently become one of just three schools in Hong Kong to teach A Levels.
Located in Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, this school for three to 16-year-olds has more than 1,000 students from over 40 different nationalities attending its early years, primary and secondary schools. While it may be far removed from the central hub of international schools, DBIS is certainly not a school to be overlooked. And, for anyone living on Lantau Island where the number of international schooling options are limited, it deserves serious consideration.
As Paul Tough, head of school since 2014, says:
“The DBIS student experience is characterised by a highly personalised learning environment, small class sizes, creative approaches to teaching and learning, and a broad range of extra-curricular activities.”
An international education
Although DBIS is known as one of the few British schools in Hong Kong, it prefers to label its learning path as “an international curriculum with British characteristics”. This is a school that follows the English National Curriculum but also uses the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) for foundation subjects in early years and primary classes. Known for its creative and thematic approach to teaching, IPC focuses on personal learning goals. It also includes a virtues project that nurtures pupils in the qualities needed throughout life such as tolerance, courage, confidence and honesty; these are celebrated in a weekly Virtues Assembly.
There are four classes in each year group within the primary school, which covers Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 of the ENC. Secondary students follow the English Key Stage 3 curriculum, which culminates in their IGCSEs; in August 2017, DBIS welcomed its first cohort of A Level students to its new Senior School for 17 to 19-year-olds.
DBIS talks a lot about personalised learning on its website, and draws attention to its small class sizes. With teacher to student ratios of 1:10 in early years, 1:15 in primary and 1:22 in secondary, these figures are not the lowest within Hong Kong though. However, by following the IPC teaching here is largely focused on developing individual strengths.
Students at DBIS can expect to embark on a learning journey that involves “problem solving though mathematics and computing, proficiency in English, development of an additional language, creativity and performance in music, art and drama, plus health and wellbeing through sport and physical education”. Mandarin Chinese is taught in every year group throughout the school, and secondary students have the option to study French and Spanish. PE lessons are held in every year group, and includes invasion games, ball games, athletics, outdoor and adventurous activities, health related fitness, swimming, gymnastics and dance. All students are encouraged to take part in competitive sports either as part of an after-school club or within the inter school house competitions. The school can also be credited for trying to instil a passion for music from a young age. While Years 1 and 2 focus primarily on singing, students learn the recorder in Years 3 and 4 and the ukulele in Years 5 and 6.
DBIS promises to embrace its cultural diversity and this is achieved through themed Discovery Days and the celebration of different religious and cultural festivals. Students are encouraged to learn through first-hand experiences, such as literacy focused trips to the theatre, farm visits, and annual residential camps. A highlight of the school calendar has to be the Year 6 residential trip to China; where better to learn Mandarin than by bartering in local markets? There are also plenty of opportunities for students to develop leadership skills, whether taking their place on the school council or completing the Cool Schools Peer Mediation Programme, which teaches life skills for peaceful conflict resolution.
Technology is integral to the curriculum; students start with class iPads in the Early Years and are then provided with their own iPad in secondary school as part of a 1-1 iPad programme. It’s really encouraging to see that the school’s ICT curriculum incorporates newer topics such as computing, coding and programing skills.
This is an inclusive school, which is important to remember when reviewing its latest IGCSE results. In 2016, 37% received A* to A grade and 81% were graded A* to C, compared to a UK average of 66.9%; these are above average results but there’s still room for improvement when it comes to hitting the top grades.
Students at DBIS take seven or eight IGCSEs, and now have the option to study for A/AS Levels at the new Senior School. The first A Level results will be in August 2019.
There’s a varied programme of extra-curricular activities held before, during and after school at DBIS. Creative arts activities include orchestra, samba, drumming, ukulele, drama and art; students are even encouraged to form their own rock bands to compete in the annual Battle of the Bands. Sports clubs include athletics, basketball, swimming, hockey, football, rugby, netball, tennis, gymnastics, cricket, t-ball and dance, to name but a few.
It’s fair to say that DBIS has a strong competitive streak. As well as participating in the annual FOBISIA Games and the International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong (ISSFHK) leagues, students are entered into the Modern United Nations (MUN), drama and music festivals, mathematics, and the national Battle of the Books contest. This is a school that encourages all students to be successful, whether they are sporty, academic, creative or natural born leaders. It’s definitely one of DBIS’ strengths.
Located within the close-knit Discovery Bay community, it comes as no surprise that DBIS has a strong family-feel. The school calendar is choc-a-bloc with events that not only give children the opportunity to showcase their talents, but also bring parents, teachers and students together. These include Orchestra Day, Carols on the Pitch, Arts Week, the International Food Fair, musical soirees and an annual production.
DBIS was founded in 1983 by the Hong Kong Resort Company (HKRI), the developers of Discovery Bay. Today, the school is spread across two well-equipped campuses. Designed for little learners, the early years campus has five nursery classes and five reception classes, an outside play area, library, music room and a computer suite. These facilities provide an ideal setting for the EYFS curriculum, which includes specialist teaching in PE, music, ICT and Mandarin Chinese.
The larger primary and secondary campus has some impressive facilities including the Globe Theatre with full staging, sound and lighting equipment, art studios, specialist music and design technology suites, a 25-metre swimming pool, multi-purpose sports pitch, music rooms with a soundproofed rehearsal space, and a library.
With fees ranging from HKD 115,800 in primary up HKD 175,000 in senior school, DBIS is one of the cheaper international schools in Hong Kong based on tuition fees alone. However, once you add on its high annual levy of HKD 50,000, then the overall cost of an education here is in line with most schools.
In 2017, the school introduced three scholarships for primary and secondary students with outstanding academic potential, and “excellent overall achievement including talent in sports and creative arts”.
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