This international secondary Private Independent School in Kowloon Tong offers a fully bilingual Chinese-English education that culminates in IGCSEs and the IBDP.
There are some schools in Hong Kong that offer a national curriculum with a Chinese language programme. And there are others that offer a truly international, bilingual education. Yew Chung International School Hong Kong (YCIS) is definitely the latter.
Since 1932, this school in Kowloon Tong has been offering a dual education in English and Chinese from early childhood. Today, it has expanded to offer an all-through education across three campuses and teaches roughly 2,200 children two of the world’s most spoken languages from as young as 4 up until 18 years. 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.
YCIS’ three campuses, located within walking distance of each other, are home to a kindergarten, primary, and secondary school. Teaching is firmly grounded in the National Curriculum for England up until Year 11 when students take their IGCSEs; it then switches to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in Years 12 and 13.
YCIS secondary is one of seven Private Independent Schools (PIS) in Hong Kong. These PIS are part of the private school sector but receive government assistance; they are given land on a 10-year lease and a grant to construct a school building. In return, PIS must set aside at least 10% of their total school fee income for scholarships and other financial assistance programmes, and they must admit at least 70% local students.
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 has such an immersive bilingual programme that students are said to have a strong command of Mandarin Chinese language after just two years.
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. The school’s Chinese Language Programme is divided into two sections – Chinese as an Additional Language (CAL) and Chinese as a First Language (CFL) – and students are grouped according to ability. As well as operating a co-teaching model, the school has daily language lessons for all secondary students and regular cultural activities and culture studies courses for all lower secondary students.
Years 7 to 9 follow the NCE, Years 10 to 11 work towards their IGCSEs (when they study between 8 and 10 subjects), and Years 12 to 13 study for the IBDP. From 2017, the school started to integrate Years 7 to 9 into a new middle school programme that is designed to smooth the transition with primary and secondary school.
IGCSE students must take the following core subjects, English, Chinese, maths, and global perspective, as well as elective courses ranging from humanities and world literature through to physics and business studies. It seems that while the school has a strong focus on Chinese, it is limited in its offering of modern languages.
Moving on to the IBDP, and students can study English language and literature, Chinese language and literature, maths, sciences, design technology, environmental systems and societies, economics, history, geography, music, theatre arts, and visual arts. Years 12 and 13 also have regular sessions with the school’s university guidance counsellor. To prepare students for the IBDP, the school runs a Pre-IB Programme for Year 11 students.
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; they also focus on issues faced by students as they approach adulthood.
Academia aside, there are art, music, and drama classes that tend to be the last lesson of the day. In sport, students take PE lessons and have the opportunity to compete in local and regional leagues such as the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS), the International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong (ISSFHK), and Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation (HKSSF).
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 an 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, and there are regular student-led music and drama performances. Learning is encouraged after the school day ends with a wide offering of activities as part of its co-curricular programme (CCP), including soccer, basketball, floor hockey, skateboarding, Chinese cultural crafts, choirs, environment clubs, Model Nations Club, dance, kung fu, running, cooking, chess club, community service, 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. Years 10 and 11 can visit one of YCIS’ Seeds of Hope schools in rural villages throughout China, where they do voluntary and service work.
The academic year is spread across three terms, running from August to June.
In the 2016 IGCSEs, 85% of the cohort obtained distinctions and merits, 38% received A* to A grades and 80% were graded A* to C. The 2016 IBDP cohort scored highly with an average score of 35.4, well above the world average of 30; there was a 100% pass rate and 20.7% of students scored 40 points or above.
The school’s secondary campus is modern and purpose built, with an auditorium; music rooms; art, design, and technology facilities; a library; science labs; a gym; an indoor swimming pool; outdoor sports courts; a student art gallery; a cafeteria; and classrooms equipped with whiteboards. Classes are held between standard classrooms and open plan spaces.
There is ongoing development at the school, and it most recently saw the opening of the Global Learning Centre, which has a multimedia centre.
Admission and fees
YCIS’ secondary school is one of only a few international schools in Hong Kong to have a scholarship fund, which covers full or partial tuition fees for up to seven years from Year 7 to 13. It is open to students who excel overall, or in art and design, music, the performing arts, or sport.
Fees are HKD 192,940 for Years 7 to 11 and HKD 197,350 for Years 12 to 13. While these fees are at the lower end of the international schools’ scale, since 2017 all parents have been asked to pay a refundable debenture of HKD 470,000 (there’s a falling rate for second and third siblings).
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