Discovery Bay International School is an all-through independent school that offers a well-rounded British-style education including IGCSEs and A Levels.
Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) is a truly unique international school with a warm, welcoming community feel and spirit.. 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, DBIS is one of a small number of schools in Hong Kong that offers A Levels and IGCSEs as well as a BTEC pathway.
Located in the heart of Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, this all-through school, from Nursery to Year 13, has three dedicated campuses in the area: Early Years, Primary/Secondary, and a Sixth Form centre.
This school for 3 to 16-year-olds has nearly 1,200 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 Stuart Bridge, head of school since 2019, says:
“An education at DBIS is about inspiring students to reach their potential and actively make a positive difference to the lives of others. We expect our students to explore the extraordinary number of enriching opportunities on offer and reach for their highest levels of attainment in all that they do.
"We are immensely proud of their achievements and in equal measure, we celebrate their excellent exam results, world class University destinations, excellence in the performing arts, sporting endeavour and service to others. There is a strong belief in the good of young people and that there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
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 National Curriculum for England but embraces an inquiry-based learning programme starting in the early years with child-directed, Reggio Emilia inspired environments and a Forest and Beach Schools programme; this follows through primary to Key Stage 3 in secondary with a concept driven 'Discovery Curriculum'. Students embark on a two year IGCSE program in Years 10 and 11, and sixth form students study for AS and A levels in Years 12 and 13; a BTEC awards programme runs in parallel from Years 10 to 13.
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.
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 include 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 Early 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. Literacy focused trips to the theatre, farm visits, and annual residential camps in primary, as well as a dedicated Week Without Walls trip for secondary students, ensure that experiential learning is undertaken as part of DBIS’s holistic approach to education.
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. There is also a lively Young Entrepreneur programme that runs in the older primary years.
Technology is integral to the curriculum; students start with class iPads in the Early Years and then one-to-one Chromebooks in primary. Secondary students bring their own devices, starting with Chromebooks in Years 7 to 9 and laptops in the senior years. It’s really encouraging to see that the school’s ICT curriculum incorporates newer topics such as computing, coding, and programming skills, as well as a Digital Citizenship program which runs from the Early Years right through to the Sixth Form. The Discovery Lab, which opened in 2018, gave real momentum to the development of a STEAM based approach to learning at DBIS with its green room, robotics, and virtual reality lessons.
This is an inclusive school, which is important to remember when reviewing its latest IGCSE and A Level results. In 2020, 32.1% of A Level students achieved an A*, 54.7% an A* to A grade and 100% were graded A* to E.
Students at DBIS take between seven to ten IGCSEs, and three or four A/AS Levels in the Sixth Form. In addition to the A levels and iGCSEs on offer, students can also take a number of BTEC qualifications.
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. The third campus provides a separate facility exclusively for Sixth Form students, with additional classrooms, an art studio, a media studies room, and a Sixth Form common room.
With fees ranging from HKD 113,300 in Nursery up to HKD 185,000 in the sixth form, DBIS is one of the cheaper international schools in Hong Kong based on tuition fees alone. However, there is an additional one-off levy of HKD 60,000 payable when a student joins, in line with most other schools’ levies and debentures.
In 2020, the school awarded six scholarships for primary and secondary students who showed outstanding achievement in one of three categories: overall achievement, sports, or creative arts.
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