One of Hong Kong’s largest all-through schools, Renaissance College in the New Territories offers an IB education that includes the arts-focused IBCP and an advanced technology programme.
Renaissance College (RCHK) is a trailblazing school that offers a wide-ranging, internationally focused and technology-driven curriculum to students aged four to 17 years. Located in the New Territories, RCHK 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. Also, it was the first school in East Asia to offer the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP); this alternative to the IBDP is specifically developed for students who want to focus on a career in the arts.
A decade later, and this single campus school is home to 2,100 students. RCHK 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 RCHK. Fees here are slightly higher than at other ESF schools, but the school does offer achievement scholarships in academics, visual arts, performing arts, music, and physical education/sport. You’ll need to persist with a very detailed and rigorous application process, but it’s worth it to save money on school fees; there are currently 120 scholars at the school who do!
Although it’s not as established as many ESF school, RCHK has worked hard during the past 10 years and doubled its student numbers at a fast rate. Today, the school has students from more than 40 nationalities, and its teaching staff is equally international.
As Principal Dr Harry Brown says,
“Renaissance College has become the first choice for private independent education in Hong Kong because of the phenomenal success of our students, our committed international faculty and first-rate facilities.”
An IB education
RCHK is one of a handful of schools worldwide to offer all four IB programmes. Although each programme has a standalone framework and curriculum, this all-through school does give students the chance to access a seamless education from four through to 17 years. This means that RCHK students can reap the benefits of an all-through school: a stable environment for children, no transition from primary to secondary to sixth form; primary students have access to young role models; and secondary students have the responsibility of mentoring younger students.
As well as following the framework of the IB programmes, RCHK’s roadmap for education is built on what it calls the Bedrock Principles. These focus on an holistic and international education; action, outreach, fieldwork and authentic learning experiences; and technology. In Chinese lessons, for example, students learn the language through a wide variety of activities, including student exchanges, field trips, and Chinese speaking and reading competitions.
The most recent change to the RCHK curriculum is the IBCP (formerly known as IBCC), which is the fourth IB programme. The IBCP is a vocational alternative to the very academic IBDP; at RCHK it focuses on art, design and the performing arts, and is designed for students who want to pursue these subjects at university, college or as a career. RCHK works in partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to offer courses such as drawing and design.
In August 2017, RCHK launched a second joint programme with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), offering courses in jazz dance, musical theatre performance, singing skills for actors and dancers, and tap dance. The IBCP is being rolled out by ESF at schools including South Island School and Sha Tin College, so it won’t be unique to RCHK for long.
The academic year at RCHK runs from August to June and has three terms.
In just 10 years, RCHK has become renowned for its focus on technology. The school’s Red Door Centre is equipped with Mac laptops, projectors, green rooms, recording studios, video editing suites, maker and robotic spaces, and all things IT. Opened in 2013, this centre offers students a flexible space, world-class facilities, and specialist teaching in networking, programming and databases, film-making, robotics, and electronics. It’s also used as an IT hub for all ESF schools. It’s a real feather in RCHK’s cap, and you get the feeling that it’s just the start of a huge technology drive at this school.
As Brown says,
“Having pedagogical, technical and creative minds housed under one roof is what makes Red Door unique and so capable of innovation and systemic approaches at the same time.”
Beyond the classroom
As you’d expect from an IB school, there is plenty of action outside the classroom including music ensembles, bands and choirs, the schools’ Black Kites sport teams, and RCHK Scouts; this group of around 200 students from Years 2 to 11 has a busy schedule of weekly meetings, camps, hikes, visits and community service projects. Students are also encouraged to take part in various initiatives as part of RCHK’s commitment to fundraise HKD 397,000 annually for charity.
Sport is certainly part of the school culture. The school fields teams in the International School Sports Federation Hong Kong (ISSFHK), the Hong Kong Primary Schools Group (HKPSG) and the Hong Kong School Sports Federation (HKSSF) and the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS). The student-led Athletics Council is dedicated to developing a sports programme at RCHK, there are annual sports scholarships up for grabs, regular inter-house competitions, and after-school recreational sports clubs for students who don’t get picked for the Black Kites teams.
There’s an impressive programme of extra-curricular activities ranging from a maths mentor club to rowing and trashion clubs. After finding that primary students were unable to attend may after-school clubs, the school decided to include certain activities within the school day in daily sessions called Studio Time. It’s a solid example of RCHK’s positive attitude to change; while RCHK may not be as ‘mature’ as other all-through schools in Hong Kong, there’s less resistance to change here.
In a recent interview in the school RCHK World magazine, Brown, who has been principal since 2009, said:
“For our teachers and our students, the sky's the limit. There's never a ceiling to what students and teachers can recommend. What makes our school unique is there's a real can-do attitude.”
RCHK is performing well above average. Its 2019 results show an average score 34.7, well above the global average of 29.62.
• Average score: 34.7
• Pass rate: 95%
• Top score: 45
• No. students scored 40 points and above: 17%
• No. students scored 35 points and above: 52%
• No. students scored 30 points and above: 84%
• No. students achieved the bilingual diploma: 31%
17% of students achieved 40 or more total points – a figure that can earn them a place them at competitive Ivy League or Oxbridge universities. Three students celebrated the top score of 45: Russell Liu, Bianca Yuen and Ethan Tsang.
In 2019, there was a small cohort of eight students taking the IBCP, a 100% pass rate, and a grade point average of 3.17 in the SCAD programme and Distinction in the HKAPA programme.
The majority of RCHK students go on to study at universities in Hong Kong (27%), the UK (21%), Canada (17%) and the US (17%).
Read our roundup of Hong Kong's 2019 IB results here.
RCHK is described by Brown as, “a small campus with the feeling of a small school, but still with a large number of students.” There’s very little mention of the campus on the school’s website. However, we can tell you that it does have modern facilities including a performing arts centre, black box theatre, the Red Door Centre, a gymnasium with climbing wall and basketball, badminton, netball and volleyball courts, two rooftop AstroTurf playing fields, a 25-metre indoor swimming pool, multi-level library and split-level cafeteria.
The Renaissance Association of Parents and Teachers Limited (RAPT) is actively involved in community events and fundraising for the campus; it is the driving force behind RCHK’s College Fair, which raises millions of dollars for the school.
Admission and fees
As a PIS, RCHK does have slightly higher tuition fees than other ESF schools but they are lower than the other PIS school, Discovery College. Fees start at HKD 118,100 per year for primary students (Years 1 to 6) and increase to HKD 149,300 for Years 7 to 11 and HKD 159,900 for Years 12 and 13. However, its non-refundable building levy (NBL) is a one-off payment rather than an annual charge as you’ll find at other international schools; this NBL starts at HKD 50,000 for Year 1 and reduces every year to HKD 4,200 by Year 12.
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