One of the newest kids on the block, Nord Anglia International School (NAIS) is certainly one to watch.This is a school that is built on the global reputation of the Nord Anglia name, is heavily focused on STEAM and the performing arts, and has future plans to offer IGCSEs and the IBDP.
In just four years, Nord Anglia International School (NAIS) has made quite an impression within Hong Kong. As well as receiving a glowing report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), this all-through school has built up a reputation for its innovative teaching of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) and music.
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Located in Lam Tin, Kowloon, NAIS follows the English National Curriculum, has just started teaching IGCSEs, and, as the school expands, it will offer the IBDP. NAIS brings many of the features that Nord Anglia has become renowned for worldwide to Hong Kong: a global campus programme, collaborations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Juilliard School, and (hopefully) academic excellence. While NAIS is still a school that’s in its infancy here (and the lack of Years 12 to 13 may put some parents off at this time) it does appear to be laying down the foundations for a very strong education.
Parents who are worried abut the relative youth of the school should take note of the recent success of Nord Anglia International's sister school in Dubai. The school came second in the country for its GCSE results at its first attempt.
An international curriculum
NAIS delivers a British-style curriculum to roughly 800 five to 14 year olds at its Lam Tin campus. The primary school curriculum is based on the English National Curriculum, which includes core subjects and specialist teaching in art, music, drama, PE and Mandarin; Spanish is taught from Year 5 upwards. Parents are sent curriculum newsletters at the start of each term, which give a detailed breakdown of the subjects and topics that will be covered (it’s really helpful for parents who like to plan ahead and stock up on books and resources for home learning).
The secondary school continues to follow the English National Curriculum, which includes core subjects and specialist teaching in art, music, drama, PE, Mandarin, Spanish and computing. Students also have Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE), a feature of the English National Curriculum that looks at issues such as bullying, healthy lifestyles, dealing with stress and emotions, alcohol and drugs, friendships and relationships, and global issues
As the school expands, Year 10 and 11 students will work towards their IGCSE examinations, and Years 12 and 13 will eventually study the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Year 10 will be phased in from August 2017, Year 11 will from August 2018, Year 12 from August 2019, and Year 13 from August 2020.
The school has a 1:1 device policy that gives every student access to a tablet or laptop. In terms of sportiness, the school has some outstanding new sports facilities that are used for weekly PE lessons for all students from Year 1 through to secondary; swimming is compulsory. The NAIS Knights teams compete in various sports leagues across the region, and students can display their competitive streak in regular inter-house matches.
Any school promising to offer a broad education needs to offer aprogramme of extra-curricular activities. Once again, NAIS ticks the box with its offering of clubs covering sport, the arts (from music and choir to drawing, drama and debating, and academia (language skills, science, Mandarin etc).
The NAIS website says that, “Your child won't just be reading about something in a textbook. They'll be able to see it with their own eyes.” It’s a promise that’s fulfilled through various local and international expeditions that range from a five-day jungle trek in China to a safari in Tanzania or a hike in the Swiss mountains. The school also runs student exchanges with other schools in the Nord Anglia family.
There’s a strong British influence here – the houses are named after Royal Family homes such as Balmoral – and in line with UK schools NAIS has three terms running from mid-August to mid-August. There are more than 35 different nationalities at NAIS, which aims to keep classes relatively small at 24 in all primary and secondary year groups.
Despite its size, NAIS is known for its family feel. This is a school where new parents can join a Buddy List to be put in touch with other parents in their neighbourhood, and where the PTA is always on the scene organising regular events, parent workshops, hikes and other community activities.
Focus on STEAM and music
What really sets this school apart from the rest is its collaborations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Juilliard School. NAIS moves away from a traditional schooling approach that teaches STEAM subjects individually; instead it takes an integrated approach that sees students working across, between, and beyond individual subjects.
In line with MIT’s philosophy of ‘mind and hand’, NAIS encourages hands-on learning, and it sets students real-world challenges every term. You can expect to find students building robots, studying bioengineering and water quality in Hong Kong, looking at climate change, and much more.
The school’s website says,
“These challenges will be interdisciplinary, critical-thinking activities that will present students with the challenge of a modern day, real-world issue that has yet to be solved. Each will require significant levels of collaboration, experimentation and a designed solution through trial and error. Creating practical challenges for students means that they can develop their knowledge and skills through hands-on exercises.”
As part of the MIT collaboration, students have the opportunity to go to the annual Cambridge Science Festival in Massachusetts, and teachers visit MIT every summer for training from its experts.
Another distinguishing feature of NAIS is its Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme. Developed in partnership with the performing arts academy based in New York, this arts curriculum puts students in front of Juilliard’s performers and teaching artists at various workshops, masterclasses and performances. You really get a feel for the love of music at this school. It all starts in Year 1 when students take compulsory keyboard lessons in NAIS’ well-equipped music lab. The school’s music curriculum is based on a repertoire curated by Juilliard that is built around 12 categories of music, ranging from Bach and Mozart to Gershwin and John Williams.
The school’s website says,
“Through our music curriculum designed by The Juilliard School, every student can enjoy being an engaged listener, composer, interpreter and communicator. In addition, your child will be developing valuable skills that will pay dividends in all aspects of learning and prepare them for success in future life.”
A global campus
International schools are no longer founded to simply fill the gap for expat education. They are expected to offer students in any given country a global education that offers more than just internationally recognised qualifications. NAIS does go the extra mile to try and achieve this.
As part of its DNA, Nord Anglia encourages children to see themselves as global citizens from an early age. As a member of Nord Anglia’s global network of 55 schools, NAIS is part of the group’s Global Campus. This virtual world links Nord Anglia’s 50,000 students and gives them access to online courses, global challenges and experiences that are run across the family of schools. Previous challenges have included a collaboration with UNICEF to 'Make Hong Kong Well Again' and a partnership with the Cambridge Science Festival to create a chain reaction machine.
By logging on to the Global Campus website, students can enter creative writing competitions, take part in photography challenges and virtual choirs, and sign up to Global Campus expeditions. Through Global Campus Worldwide, all Nord Anglia schools offer a variety of summer programmes ranging from specialist camps for the performing arts or leadership to sports and language camps. They also encourage students to showcase their talent in Nord Anglia regional and global competitions such as sports tournaments, orchestra performances and science festivals; based on recent achievements such as winning the primary debating league and photography competition, NAIS students are thriving on such challenges.
The school’s website says,
“Our Global Campus extends your child's learning beyond the classroom and the school day. Your child can participate in a wide variety of activities designed by educational experts and teachers to broaden their knowledge and nurture transferable skills valuable in school, university and the workplace.”
For anyone looking for that ‘small school feeling’, then Nord Anglia is not for you. However, it will appeal to students who want to be part of something bigger than the school in Hong Kong, who want to feel part of a ‘global community’, and who thrive on competition and collaboration.
NAIS scored the top grade of excellent in its inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in March 2017. ISI, which is validated by OFSTED and accredited by the UK government, offers an insight into the school’s strengths. The report noted the school’s excellent creativity in the arts, its strong numeracy development, and a high level of understanding in science from an early age.
Inspectors noted that,
“The pupils show high standards in their knowledge, understanding and skills across a broad range of subjects and activities. A significant factor in this is the school’s consistent approach to encourage independence, collaboration and reflection in lessons.”
The report recognises that “creative disciplines, art and music are significant strengths”, and students’ “broad exposure to STEAM”. It also highlights the school’s achievements in national competitions such as the Battle of the Books and the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival. Teaching was described as “energetic, enthusiastic and brisk”, and inspectors noted the “high level of personal attention” that teachers give to each student to give them confidence and help them reach their potential.
On the negative front, the school needs to focus on giving students more roles of responsibility, ensure consistency in marking, and make better use of teaching assistants.
The Nord Anglia group is renowned for its academic excellence. Students regularly achieve excellent results at IGCSE level and in the IBDP. Around one in five Nord Anglia students gets a place at the world’s top 30 universities; there is a history of students receiving full marks in their IBDP; and around 15% of all Nord Anglia Education students who sit the IBDP have historically achieved a score of around 40 or above, more than double the global average.
While NAIS has yet to sit its first IGCSE or IBDP exams, the outlook for its secondary students is promising. In its first year of GCSE results at Nord Anglia International School in Dubai in 2017 the school achieved 71% A* to A and 98% A* to C. If Nord Anglia International School can repeat that here, it would sit at the very top of a very competitive tree. Hong Kong school GCSE results here.
NAIS opened in 2014, after moving into a five-storey empty government school building. Recent renovations to the Lam Tin campus in Kowloon have seen the addition of a new five-storey building, which will give NAIS the space needed to take students up to Year 11 when they take their IGCSEs.
A campus extension will also include six more classrooms, a new science lab and a fifth-floor open sports pitch. The Hub is a new social area and workshop for parents and senior students, and a new Makerspace will have an ideas wall, Lego and magnetic walls, robotics, 3D printers, a green wall for filming and other facilities to be used as part of the STEAM programme.
New dedicated early years’ campuses opened in Sai Kung and Tai Tam at the start of the 2017 academic year, and these follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for nursery and reception years (aged three to five). Fees range from HKD 105,000-150,000.
Admission and fees
As one of Hong Kong’s newest schools, NAIS does have the advantage of available places in all years. This is a selective school and admission is based on an interview and assessment.
In line with its global reputation for high fees, NAIS is one of the more expensive schools in Hong Kong. For the academic year 2020-21, annual tuition fees at Lam Tin are HKD 163,000 (Primary) and HKD 182,000 (Secondary). There is a non-refundable application fee of HKD 3,000, and a non-refundable one-off capital enrolment fee of HKD 100,000; although this is high, bear in mind that it is a one-off payment and many international schools will charge you an annual capital levy instead. Alternatively, NAIS offers three different types of optional debenture: individual debentures (HKD 500,000), corporate debentures (HKD 2 million) and platinum corporate debenture (HKD 5 million) packages
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