Based in Kowloon Tong, this primary school offers a truly international, bilingual education that immerses students in Eastern and Western cultures.
Yew Chung International School Hong Kong (YCIS) stands out for one very clear reason – its immersive bilingual programme. This well-established primary school in Kowloon Tong, which has been teaching for more than 80 years in Hong Kong, offers students a dual education in English and Chinese. YCIS is so committed to delivering a solid Chinese-English bilingual programme that every class has a Western and Chinese teacher, each of its three campuses is jointly run by a Western and a Chinese co-principal, and all students explore the country through an active Experiencing China programme. There’s such an intense focus on Chinese here that students are said to have a strong command of the Mandarin Chinese language after just two years.
Founded in 1932, YCIS has expanded to become an all-through school that teaches roughly 2,200 children aged 4 to 18 years across three campuses. Located within walking distance of each other, the campuses are home to a kindergarten, primary, and secondary school.
A bilingual education
At YCIS, Chinese is not just considered a subject; it is fully integrated into the curriculum. The school not only teaches children learn to read, write, and speak fluently in Chinese, it takes students through a Chinese cultural programme that looks at Chinese geography, history, literature, art, and festivals.
YCIS adopts a co-teaching model, which sees each class have a Western teacher, recruited from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and North America, as well as a Chinese teacher. Teachers adopt methods such as team teaching, where both teachers stand at the front of the classroom and introduce exercises bilingually, and station teaching, where students work in small groups. Having two teachers in each class is definitely a bonus; although class sizes of 25 are higher than some other international schools, the teacher to student ratio is roughly 1:12.
In the words of YCIS CEO Dr Betty Chan Po-king,
“A YCIS student, on our unique education journey, is immersed in Eastern and Western cultures whilst acquiring a high proficiency in English (including English as an Additional Language, EAL) and Chinese; unifying in high bilingual skills. Our students gain a new and profoundly deep appreciation of the two spectrums.”
At first glance, YCIS seems to deliver a typically British primary education that follows the National Curriculum for England. However, here’s a school that gives students a bilingual advantage that may be lacking in other international schools across Hong Kong. As part of the school’s Chinese Language Programme, students have a daily Chinese lesson and a weekly Chinese studies class; there is a Western and Chinese teacher in each classroom; and from Years 4 to 6 a wide range of subjects are taught in both languages.
There’s another important element to the curriculum here – something the school has branded Character Education. Based on the global Character First programme, these lessons teach and encourage positive social and Christian values like kindness, diligence, and responsibility through activities such as reading, drama, and arts and crafts.
Art and music are an integral part of the curriculum; as well as taking part in weekly singing and instrumental lessons, Years 1 to 3 have violin lessons as part of the school’s drive to encourage “a lifelong appreciation for music”. Upper primary students then move on to developing their own musical compositions. There are also weekly lessons in games, sports, and dance, and a wide choice of sports in the school’s co-curricular activities programme, which includes competitive sports for upper primary students.
An holistic education
Owned by the Yew Chung Education Foundation, YCIS Hong Kong is part of a network of schools that includes Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing and Qingdao in China, and Silicon Valley in the US. One of the advantages of studying at a YCEF school is that it can be quick and easy to transfer between schools within its global network.
While YCIS has a reputation for its bilingual education, the school does aim to offer a holistic education that includes art, music, drama, sport, and extra-curricular activities. An Artist in Residence programme involves students in various art activities such as painting large-scale murals, the music curriculum in Years 1 to 3 includes compulsory violin lessons, and there are regular student-led music and drama performances. Learning is encouraged after the school day ends with a wide offering of free CCAs from Year 2; these include soccer, basketball, floor hockey, skateboarding, Chinese cultural crafts, dance, Lego technology, kung fu, running, chess club, and many more.
The school has a computer lab and several technology-based extra-curricular activities such as Vex Robotics, but there’s very little talk about technology in the school’s curriculum.
Beyond the classroom, students visit regions in China such as Guilin, Qingdao, and Inner Mongolia as part of the Experiencing China programme. The school’s World Classroom programme features field trips, overnight camps, and excursions throughout the school year within Hong Kong and overseas.
The academic year is spread across three terms, running from August to June.
The school campus is modern and purpose built, with an auditorium; music rooms; art, design, and technology facilities; a library; a playground; and classrooms equipped with whiteboards. Classes are held between standard classrooms and open plan spaces. Students have use of the nearby YCIS secondary campus, which has science labs; a gym; an indoor swimming pool; outdoor sports courts; a student art gallery; and a cafeteria. Classes there are also held between standard classrooms and open plan spaces.
Fees are HKD 197,220 for primary. While these fees are at the lower end of the international schools’ scale, since 2017 all parents are asked to pay a refundable debenture of HKD 350,000 for primary students (this charge reduces for second and third siblings).
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