International College Hong Kong was established in 2009 to provide through places for students from the original 35 year old International College Primary School at Hong Lok Yuen and its two additional partner schools – Japanese International School and Kingston International School. Both ICHK schools were established by parents to meet the needs of children living in the Hong Lok Yuen development with a focus on Chinese-language learning and with strong and on-going parental involvement.
Although the two schools are located separately, they are overseen by the Principal, Ruth Woodward, based at the Primary School, and with a common Board. The mission of the Secondary School under its Head of School, Toby Newton, is “to respect and meet the needs of all students who join (the School), throughout their school careers, as they develop into autonomous, self-directed learners, and move on to the university of their choice and life beyond”.
Student numbers and classes per grade are not provided by ICHK, but they state that the school is “small by intention”, and this would seem to follow the 2 form entry at the Primary School. Part of the reason for maintaining relatively low numbers appears to be the commitment by the leadership to provide students with a cutting-edge, research driven education. Class sizes are small (24 students maximum), the curriculum personalised and innovative.
There is evidence that the College is achieving its aims.The school was chosen as one of those featured in ‘Innovation 800’, created to celebrate 800 years of excellence at Cambridge University. The prestigious University’s research wing, Cambridge Strategies, included ICHK in its list of 100 pioneering global schools in 2017, notably for Five + 1 Mindset and Human Technologies. Innovation 800 showcased global leaders and institutions at the forefront of change in the field of education, and ICHK is the only school in Hong Kong to be featured.
A particular area of focus is on student assessment and the encouragement of a “growth mind-set”, which is used as a positive tool for learning. The school aims to develop confident young people with creative and inquiring minds, and the attainment of a Growth Mindset is the most fundamentally important element of its ethos and approach. All students learn that effort, commitment, perseverance, and resilience, rather than latent “intelligence” or talent, lead to high achievement and success in life. The school places emphasis on trying to maintain the enthusiasm and motivation for learning commonly found in Primary students, which often seems to disappear as they progress through Secondary School. At the primary and secondary school, positive psychology and mindfulness are built into the curriculum to support student wellbeing.
The schools describes its focus as “relentlessly future-orientated”. Teachers work on the premise that they know that change in the world is constant and accelerating. They believe that students need a new and wider set of skills if they are to meet the challenges that await: that, in an information and ideas based economy, it is attitudes and mindsets – no less than qualifications – that will underpin ongoing performance and success.
Key features of the school’s own programmes include Human Technologies, Big History, Digital Creativity and Visual Thinking, the 5+1 pastoral model, and Free Learning. There is an emphasis on savoir faire – having students thinking like a scientist or a mathematician or an actor or a poet, and priority is given to the promotion of critical thinking, independent learning, collaboration, collegiality, commitment, and leadership. Human Technologies helps students discover and develop skills for learning including self-management, collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, inquiry, and ICT skills, whilst practicing self-reflection and self-awareness.
In Years 7 – 9, the school offers a National Curriculum of England based programme aimed at preparing students for the IGCSE and IB programmes in the senior school. Learning is centred on emerging best practices, using insights and innovations from around the world. The programme features a combination of established subjects including English, Mathematics, and Science, along with courses of the school’s own design. The programme includes: English, Mathematics, Science, Language (Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese), Big History and Integrated Humanities, ICT & Media, Human Technologies, Physical Education (PE), Art and Design, Expressive Arts, Drama and Movement, Digital Creativity and Visual Thinking, Personal and Social Education (PSE), and Extra Curricular (CAS) Activities.
One interesting feature of the programme is Deep Learning – part of a regular school experience for students in Years 7, 8, and 9, which involves ‘collapsing’ the timetable for four-day programmes of study, typically spread out over a number of weeks. Every term features one or two Deep Learning programmes, with students able to choose from a wide selection of units that interest them.
Programmes are interdisciplinary. Each one ‘majors’ in some subjects, while ‘minoring’ in others. For example, a programme based on understanding the ecosystem associated with local mangrove swamps might ‘major’ in Science, Maths, and collaborative teamwork, while ‘minoring’ in Art and sociology. Another, based on maps and cartography, might major in Human Technologies, Geography, and leadership, while minoring in History and Maths.
Each programme is designed to give students the opportunity to explore and experience a feature of the curriculum in more detail and more depth, while developing a greater appreciation of how knowledge, techniques, and skills transfer between different areas of study.
In Years 10 and 11, students follow IGCSE subjects aimed at ensuring progression and continuity by building on the achievements of the earlier years and preparing students for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) offered in Years 12 and 13. All students take the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science, a Second Language, PSHE, Human Technologies, Enrichment and Flow, and PE. Enrichment and Flow offers students the opportunity to delve deeper into areas of personal interest and to take more control over their own learning. Students also select two options from subjects including Art, Drama, Media Studies, Environmental Management, Economics, History, Expressive Arts, and Global Perspectives.
The school's IGCSE results are in line with high achieving schools in Hong Kong and beyond, with 54% of the grades attained awarded at A* or A in 2016, though this fell to 40% in 2017. However, with no information about the numbers of students entered for the exams, it is not possible to know whether these results were achieved by a high performing few or an academically broader range of students.
In Years 12 – 13, students follow the IB Diploma Programme. Since the first cohort in 2014, IBDP students have scored above the world average each year and have progressed to universities around the world. In the four years since students at ICHK have sat the IBDP, average scores have been 34.2, 30.5, 33.6, and in 2017, IBDP pass rate was 100%, with an average score of 35.1 points. Two students scored 40 points or above. Again, it would be helpful to understand the number of students who participated in the exams to be able to gauge whether these are the results of a few or a broader number (and therefore academic range) of students.
Graduates are studying at universities including British Columbia, Edinburgh, University of Hong Kong, Loughborough, Delft University of Technology, Nottingham, Melbourne, Central Saint Martins, San Jose California, and Victoria University of Wellington. They have gained places on courses including English, Engineering, Bio Sciences, Law, Business, and Computer Science.
ICHK, in line with many progressive schools, is placing increasing emphasis on the creation and measurement of ‘value added’ in education. This is achieved through the assessment of students at an early stage in their Secondary education (typically on entry in Year 7) and a prediction of their likely grades at 16 for IGCSE or equivalent. The actual results achieved are then measured against the original predictions and the improvement is deemed to be the “Value Added” achievement.
ICHK students add an average 1.07 grades per subject at GCSE. Effectively, a student who was originally predicted a grade B will typically achieve a grade A. For students taking the IB Diploma Programme, an average 80 UCAS points (the UK University centralised application and clearing system) have been added to the grades predicted by the students' IGCSE performance.
Education at ICHK is not, though, all about the academics. Located in a former Government School on the border between the New Territories and China, the Secondary school is just a short distance away from Plover Cove and the internationally acclaimed Mai Po Nature Reserve, with the whole area rich in opportunities for outdoor pursuits. In line with the goal of the Primary School to operate a Forest School, outdoor learning is also an area of focus at ICHK Secondary and is integrated into teaching, offering a wide range of experiences to enable students to connect with nature. They conduct fieldwork and science experiments in their surroundings, and the programme of study trips includes nearby mangrove farms.
Students are also able to play sport and enjoy after school activities from dozens of choices ranging from sailing and horse-riding to environmental action. They are able to make full use of the nearby coastline and country parks for hiking, sailing, kayaking, cross country running, and cycling. Extra-curricular activities include hiking and cross country running; basketball; yoga; dance; aerobics; football; badminton; table tennis; rugby; journalism; rock climbing; tennis; martial arts; cycling; Model United Nations; drama; Study Hall; art; Year Book Club; film/video; music instruments; and choir. For a school which deems itself “small by design”, this is an impressive range.
International College Hong Kong aims to be the leading school for touch rugby in the region and has won several trophies including the Hong Kong Schools Grand Champions Award. A number of students compete internationally for Hong Kong in sports including rugby, ice hockey, and sailing.
Whichschooladvisor.com finds ICHK and its sister Primary School really rather interesting. They appear to be somewhat “off the beaten track” geographically and could be forgiven for keeping a low profile as a result. And yet, the history and success of the Primary School, and the clearly innovative approach of the Secondary, would suggest that they should have a much higher profile. Definitely schools with ambition and an educational focus on the future.
Priority places are offered to families from partner schools ICHK Hong Lok Yuen, Japanese International School, and Kingston International School. A Secondary School Debenture of $100,000 is payable in three instalments across 3 years.
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