There’s a large creative streak to Discovery College, which delivers an all-through IB education with a healthy dose of arts, sport and extra-curricular activities
Discovery College was built with the arts and sport in mind. From the very start, this all-through International Baccalaureate (IB) World School was designed to deliver an education that goes above and beyond the traditional IB curriculum. Built in 2008, its Discovery Bay campus features modern sports and theatre facilities. That said, Discovery College does not want to be seen as a performing arts school or sports academy. There’s a strong academic focus here and some impressive exam results to show for it.
As principal Mark Beach explains,
“In addition to the robust and comprehensive IB curriculum, which includes specialist courses in the performing arts and PE from Year 1, sports and outdoor activities play a major part in the lives of the students at Discovery College.”
Located on Lantau Island, Discovery College is one of only five international schools in Hong Kong to offer an all-through IB education: the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students 4 – 10 years, Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students 11 – 16 years, and Diploma Programme (IBDP) for students 16 – 19 years.
With a student population of 1,300 across Years 1 to 13, Discovery College is one of two Private Independent Schools (PIS) owned by the English Schools Foundation (ESF). These schools are given land on a 10-year lease and a grant to construct a school building, but no other government funding. Whereas other ESF schools only accept applications from parents within a certain catchment area, children from across Hong Kong can apply to study at Discovery College. The PIS’ also differ by offering an all-through IB education, compared to ESF’s two programmes of study at middle school: the MYP and the IGCSE. Discovery College is not as established as many other ESF schools, but it does have the benefit of new facilities.
With its distinctive tree-like roof canopy, Discovery College has become a local landmark. As cars are not permitted within Discovery Bay, students have the choice of commuting to school by train, bus, or ferry, or those who live locally are encouraged to walk, cycle, or even skate to class.
Teachers representing more than 20 nationalities teach classes with an average of 30 students. Lessons are divided between the Specialist Functions Block and the Teaching Block, and communal activities are held within an internal courtyard that’s the ‘heart’ of the school.
All students follow the IB curriculum, which is centred around dedicated English, maths, science, and social science lessons, and specialist classes for languages, physical education, art, music, and drama. Discovery College issues its own MYP completion award to all middle school students. It’s important to be aware that unlike all other ESF schools, Discovery College does not teach IGCSEs. Senior students then have the choice of studying the full IBDP or their choice of individual IB diploma courses, so there is an opportunity for students of all abilities to reach their own potential here.
Students in Years 1 to 5 have access to iPads and laptops, while students in Year 6 and above are required to buy a laptop computer. A learning diversity team helps students to reach their learning potential, and a wellness team encourages all age groups to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Art and sport
Discovery College certainly doesn’t downplay the importance of core subjects including language, mathematics, science, and social studies. However, it’s the school’s focus on the arts and sport that really stands out here. Students are given the opportunity to rehearse and perform in no less than five major drama spaces, including an auditorium and black box and white box theatres. There are acoustic music rooms, including a recital room with recording and editing booths, and a broadcasting suite.
As well as offering specialist courses in design, visual arts, music, drama, and film as part of the MYP and IBDP programmes, Discovery College makes the creative arts an integral part of school life. There’s an annual arts festival featuring visiting artists, art workshops and experiences, ensemble evenings, annual productions, and an annual concert.
Sport and outdoor activities also feature prominently across the Discovery College campus. There’s a comprehensive PE programme in all year groups, a choice of co-curricular activities, and a choice of competitive sports; these include badminton, basketball, cross-country equestrian, netball, tennis, rugby, golf, swimming, volleyball, football, and touch rugby. The school’s Cobra teams play in tournaments held by the ISSFHK (International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong), HKSSF (Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation), and ACAMIS (Association of China and Mongolia International Schools). A house system brings students together in events such as sports tournaments, battle of the bands, and trivia quizzes, and there’s plenty of friendly competition here amongst students sporting temporary house tattoos and colours.
In a country where space for sports pitches and outdoor pools is hugely limited, Discovery College has included a wellness centre, gymnasium, climbing wall, and covered rooftop swimming pool within its vertical campus. Also, thanks to its roof canopy that uses innovative ETFE air inflated foil cushions, there are more than your average number of all-weather outdoor areas for play and sport.
In 2019 students celebrated an average score of 35.3, which shows a continuation of the school's strong academic performance as last year's score was also 35.3. Adrian Yan achieved a perfect score of 45 points, and more than half of the cohort of 77 students achieved 35 points or more.
• Average score: 35.3
• Pass rate: 97.4%
• Top score: 45
• No. students scored 40 points and above: 22%
• No. students scored 35 points and above: 58%
• No. students scored 30 points and above: 86%
• No. students achieved the bilingual diploma: 16.9%
In the Middle Years Programme, the 2016 internal assessment results for Discovery College and Renaissance College – ESF’s two Private Independent Schools – were promising. Students scored an average 5.62 points compared to the global average of 5.04, and the mean total points per student was 50.8 out of a maximum 63 points.
Read our roundup of Hong Kong's 2019 IB results here.
Beyond the classroom
The school is dedicated to broadening its students’ horizons and offering them new experiences, right from day one. There’s a compulsory Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) programme with experiences ranging from outdoor activities for Year 1 through to residential camps for the middle and diploma year groups. Discovery College’s Year 10 to 12 students also take part in the school’s No Boundaries programme, an annual off-campus activity week that has seen students building projects in rural Philippines and trekking in the jungles of Borneo.
The school has three terms, which run from mid-August to the end of June. Throughout the school year, students have a choice of extra-curricular activities provided by external providers, which focus on sport and the arts. There are also low-cost co-curricular activities run by secondary students for the primary year groups, which is a great example of student leadership.
Admission and fees
There’s a higher chance of getting a school place at Discovery College than at many other ESF schools; immediate places are available in Year 9 through to 12.
As a PIS, Discovery College does have slightly higher fees than other ESF schools. Fees start at HKD 122,600 per year for primary students (Years 1 to 6) and increase to HKD 165,800 for Years 12 and 13. In 2018-19, the non-refundable building levy (NBL) was HKD 7,120 per student per annum in all year groups.
The school offers a limited number of scholarships for secondary students who excel in the areas of academics, sport, music, drama, visual arts, and design.
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