The French International School of Hong Kong's primary mission is “to provide an inspiring, high standard of education to students from a culturally diverse overseas and local community living in Hong Kong”. Unusually for a French school, non-English speaking students are actively encouraged to join the International Programme, based on the English National Curriculum.
FIS is an independent and non-profit school governed by a Board made up of 12 elected parents and representative members from the French Consulate. A staff of 360 individuals from 27 countries make up the FIS team, located across 4 campuses. Close cooperation across all four campuses and the single Board ensures consistency in curriculum and approach.
The opening of the new campus at Tseung Kwan O signals a significant expansion of the school into the New Territories, whilst addressing the closure of the current campus at Hung Hom (with approx. 350 students) in July 2018.
Having opened in 1963 with 30 French-speaking students, FIS has been an innovator in education in Hong Kong, being the first international school to offer Mandarin in 1973 and, in 1984, opening the International Stream at Jardine’s lookout.
FIS now offers the French National curriculum, National curriculum for England and IB Diploma Programme, allowing students to benefit from a multi-lingual education with French, International, and local perspectives. Currently, the school is one of the largest international through-schools in Hong Kong, with over 2,700 students from Reception/Moyenne Section to Year 13/Terminale.
French-speaking students share four campuses in Happy Valley, Jardine’s Lookout, Chai Wan, and Hung Hom with the International Stream, so that all FIS students can be part of one single community. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, the International stream educated 642 students of 30 different nationalities from Reception to Year 13.
The new campus at TKO opened its doors in September 2018, creating 950 primary and junior secondary school places (the latter planned for French stream students only currently). A completely new build campus of around 8200m2 was specifically designed to offer adaptable and flexible layouts and a wealth of differently scaled, multi-purpose spaces inside, enabling students to benefit from a stimulating and innovative learning environment.
In addition, the campus offers state-of-the-art sporting facilities – a large gymnasium, swimming pool, running track, and a 300 seat auditorium – , all of which benefit the wider public. FIS is committed to establishing strong links within its neighbourhood by developing new community initiatives, while also providing a hub to showcase French arts and culture in Hong Kong.
The site was allocated to FIS by the Education Bureau after a very competitive selection process. There are 18 primary and secondary schools within a radius of 900m around the school; one being the direct neighbour. The site is alongside new residential development projects of high standards, including bike lanes and a wide pedestrian area, with a goal to create a green and high quality environment.
In line with the residential developments, the new Tseung Kwan O campus promises to ensure “an inspiring, creative and sustainable environment for our future students”. Being a green and community-conscious school has always been one of the priorities of FIS; this new campus is designed with sustainability in mind and will use prevailing eastern winds for ventilation.
The design of the Primary school offers a new approach to teaching by creating a customized space for the school in a naturally bilingual environment. The villas house expansive open spaces (lieux de vie) with high ceilings and a homely feeling, and offer a wide range of possibilities for teaching and learning in new ways. With adaptable, flexible layouts and a wealth of differently scaled, multi-purpose spaces inside, students will benefit from a stimulating and innovative learning environment. The villa classrooms extend seamlessly into a shared space, the Agora, where children can gather or learn together. It is a platform intended for teachers to create a different learning environment and implement collaborative practices between the two streams.
Among the other facilities offered by the new school, in addition to the main Primary and ‘Collège’ buildings, are three main playgrounds, a Library, a Canteen, Art rooms, Music rooms, a Multimedia room, a Bookshop, and an Eco garden, which will be maintained by students.
A budget of HKD 600M has been allocated to the development, and financing has been arranged mainly through Reserves, including school fees, Debentures, fundraising, others (53%), and a Hong Kong Government Loan (42%).
In the International Stream, FIS TKO offers Early Years and Reception to Year 3 classes, growing to incorporate Year 6 by 2021. The French Stream offers Moyenne Section to Troisième (Primary and College), although the French stream Collège classes' opening is subject to the numbers of students the school is able to attract.
The school is targeting approx. 730 students by its third year of operation (2020-21), 950 students by Year 5 (2022-23) with a maximum capacity of 1,050 students.
Eventually the school will grow to 47 classes taught by 100 teachers. However, during the first year, plans are more modest, with a maximum of 2 classes of 25 students per year group in the International stream and 3 classes per year group in the French stream.
A major feature of the FIS campuses is the sharing of facilities and class time to create a shared curriculum covering both main languages. This is achieved through the organisation of Assembly time every morning, Round-robin workshops aimed at the implementation of bilingualism in action, one shared project per term, and a language policy which encourages active bilingualism through immersion.
In Primary, the French Stream offers two learning options. Students may choose classes in French with advanced English, where French is the main teaching language and English is taught as a second language. Students are taught in small groups according to level and have three to five English lessons per week depending on their class.
Alternatively, a full Bilingual option is offered (French/English). Teaching is in both French and English, with half the curriculum taught in French and half in English. The languages are both subjects and teaching languages, whereby each class has two teachers: one a native French speaker, the other a native English speaker.
In the International Stream, students follow the National Curriculum for England, eventually leading to IGCSE in Years 10 and 11, followed by the IB Diploma Programme in Years 12 and 13. International stream students at TKO will receive specialist teaching in French, Music, Mandarin, and PE.
In 2019, FIS celebrated another excellent set of IB results, after achieving an average score of 38.3 (three points higher than last year) and three top scorers. Twins Layla and Esme S, alongside Cloe C, all achieved full marks of 45 points; all three students have been at FIS for twelve or more years.
• Average score: 38.3
• Pass rate: 100%
• Top score: 45
• No. students scored 40 points and above: 42%
• No. students achieved the bilingual diploma: 25%
Read our roundup of Hong Kong's 2019 IB results here.
In Lower Primary, students participate in outside visits and excursions to concerts, and there are also school-wide art, music, and sports projects for them to join, as well as various extra-curricular activities. In Upper Primary, students study English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, French, Mandarin, Physical Education, Art & Design, Music, and PSHE. The overarching aim is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping students with a strong command of the spoken and written language.
A broad range of complementary educational activities enrich the learning of students with Year 3 to 5 students taking part in a school camp experience. Year 6 students visit China, where they work on service projects, helping to prepare them for CAS (Community, Action, and Service) in Secondary school.
Whichschooladvisor assumes that International stream students are expected (at least initially) to transfer to the campus at Blue Pool Road in Happy Valley to continue to Secondary School. How practical an option this may be is not clear. French stream students will potentially have the option of carrying on through College at the new campus, and we can envisage that the school may perhaps reconsider the longer term strategy at TKO, if there is greater demand from international students than from French families.
It is not uncommon for French international schools to have a somewhat rigid policy towards the admission of non-native French speakers and nationals. It is refreshing to see FIS Hong Kong continue to build on its policy of “rapprochement” through the expansion of its school to the New Territories incorporating both curricula and welcoming students of numerous nationalities.
Inevitably, offering a dual curriculum is not an inexpensive option. Not only are fees on the higher side, but parents will be required to pay HKD 90,000 for a private debenture for each child enrolled.
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