The Spanish Primary School (SPIS) is a non-profit making international school, sponsored by the MASS Education Foundation opening in September 2017 offering Nursery to Year 2 in its first academic year. The school has been established to serve both the local and international communities of Hong Kong, and in particular the Hispanic community, to whom it is dedicated to providing a world-class tri-lingual education.
SPIS is located in Shuen Wan, in the heart of Tai Po in the New Territories. It will occupy a site of 130,000 square feet, of which 8,000 square feet is the existing building area. The school has ambitious plans to build several additional buildings, including a Secondary block (to incorporate a library and sports facilities) and a Dormitory block. Quite when these additional facilities will be available, or when the school will expand to include Secondary, is not clear.
The Spanish Primary School appears to have been established through the specific personal commitment of the School Founder, Ms Adriana Chan. Formerly a Senior Police Officer with the Hong Kong Police Force, Ms Chan has been motivated by a desire to find the "right education" for her own children, and to investigate and address the problems that she perceives today’s youths are facing and “the qualities that many of this younger generation seemed to lack”. Ms Chan has looked at what she feels to be at the root of what is wrong with education in Hong Kong, and also the parental values and the thriving of keen competition in society which are contributing factors.
Ms Chan has identified that a love of learning is key to a successful education, and that, through learning, children are able to discover interests and strengths, ultimately leading them to search for their own dreams and life purpose. With the solid foundation built from their education, she believes, they have the capacity and courage to pursue any dream. "Through the teaching of educators and family, children are equipped with integrity, the right values, and a positive attitude to succeed in their every aspiration".
In a first step towards putting her beliefs into practice, Ms Chan founded a kindergarten in 2013, where her teaching philosophy could be implemented and where she could demonstrate her philosophy and influence parents about the positive effects of her proposition. She brought in academic advice and support from Professor David Liu and Professor Wang Lixun and, in 2014, began to set the wheels in motion for the Spanish Primary School with the support of the General Consulate of Spain and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.
SPIS is committed to the well-being and holistic development of students as the top priority. The school aims to provide the highest calibre education in traditional areas of academia and the arts, whilst embracing broader life facets that include nature, sportsmanship, community spirit, and morality, aimed at cultivating students’ independent thinking, visions, values, and life purpose.
The school promotes an active learning environment inside and outside the classroom, and emphasises the importance of enjoyable learning. Though textbooks form the cornerstone of reference sources, the school aims to keep the curriculum fun, stimulating, and inspiring by incorporating experiential learning. Regular field trips will take place, aiming to expose students to the sights and sounds of learning beyond the classroom. These may include exchange programmes annually with affiliated international schools overseas, so that students can see the world for themselves and acquire an international perspective.
SPIS promises to be an eco-school with an emphasis on the importance of environmental consciousness. The school is fortunate to be surrounded by a green belt. Through learning about nature, students are expected to learn to respect it and appreciate the responsibility of preserving it. SPIS has an outdoor auditorium, which affords students the opportunity to learn in the open air.
Whilst the learning ethos and atmosphere of the school may seem less traditional, SPIS follows the National Curriculum for England, with modification to cater to the needs of its students and society. For the kindergarten programme, the school follows the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and for the primary school programme, it follows the UK's Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 curricula. An apparent emphasis on the use of textbooks, rather than the use of technology and on-line research, gives a flavour of the more traditional pedagogic approach that the school appears to favour.
Another key feature of the teaching pedagogy will be the use of the “direct teaching method”, also referred to as the explicit instruction approach. This is a structured, systematic, and effective methodology for teaching academic skills. It is called explicit because it is an unambiguous and direct approach to teaching that includes both instructional design and delivery procedures.
Instead of providing instruction that contains unguided or partly guided segments, Explicit instruction is characterised by a series of supports or scaffolds, whereby students are guided through the learning process with clear statements about the purpose and rationale for learning the new skill, clear explanations and demonstrations of the instructional target, and supported practice with feedback until independent mastery has been achieved. It is a methodology that appears to be somewhat at odds with the more independent approach to learning advocated by most schools nowadays.
Another unusual feature of the curriculum will be its Personal, Social, and Leadership (PSL) Education. This unique subject revolves around positive values and the fostering of community spirit. Students will be inspired to pursue their dreams and develop their leadership potential by honing their analytical, public speaking, and task management skills.
The school will encourage student participation in extracurricular activities such as football, basketball, gymnastics, creative art, music, and drama. In addition to the discovery of innate talent and building team spirit, these activities are also considered fundamental to relieving stress and nourishing sound minds and healthy bodies. Students are required to take part in two extra-curricular activities per week.
A further and integral focus of SPIS is its language education policy. The school advocates multilingualism because research shows that it increases cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, creativity, and memory. SPIS will teach English, Mandarin, and Spanish. SPIS covers these three languages so that students will be able to speak what the school deems the three most important languages in the world.
The school will adopt an immersive language teaching method. Students will not only learn the three languages in the language classes, but they will also learn other foundation subjects in these three languages as the medium of instruction. English will be the main medium of instruction (40%), complemented equally by Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin) (30%). The three languages will be used interchangeably in morning assembly, school events, and meetings, so that students will be fully immersed in these three languages.
SPIS certainly appears to be an interesting school, and a mix of traditional and modern philosophies in many ways. Whilst the pedagogy seems to be built on much that was popular in the past, the language teaching philosophy is very much present day.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com suspects the school will appeal to a somewhat niche market of Spanish speakers or families with links to the language who want to provide their children with a more traditional education. In order to build the school and to be able to offer expansion to Secondary, we hope that they will be successful in their goals.
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