The past few years have seen around 30 new preschools and primary/secondary schools establishing in various locations across Hong Kong. Schools boast state-of-the-art facilities including sky pitches, green roofs, black box theatres, coding and STEM/STEAM programs, unusual sports such as fencing and cricket, and the list goes on and on as each attempts to differentiate itself.
Most are well known brands or a new campus of a global group of schools or an expansion of an existing school. The new schools offer parents more choice and can be very appealing, especially in the first few years when places may be more freely available. When evaluating a new school, we suggest it’s imperative that parents carefully consider a number of factors.
Follow the Leader
Take time to find out about the Principal/Head of School. This vital leader is a fundamental factor in your decision. Where did s/he come from? Is s/he new to Hong Kong or not? What is their track record and career history? Does their vision for the school match your vision for your child’s education? Have a chat – preferable face to face – and ensure you feel comfortable entrusting your child’s education to this individual.
Whilst the Head may play a key role in your decision to join the school, your child will not have a great deal of interaction with this person. Your child’s success in the school will be largely dependent on their teachers. Which brings us back to the Head, since s/he will the one recruiting. You will be putting your faith in their ability to bring in the team that can deliver on the school’s promise.
Quality of Teachers
General accepted wisdom tells us that teachers are the most important school-based factor affecting learning; much more important than physical resources. So, it’s important to look past the fancy facilities and examine the hiring policies.
While experience and educational credentials often inform hiring decisions and are linked to pay, they may not relate to student performance and therefore may not be good measures of teacher quality.
What are valid measures of teacher quality is a matter of lively debate and something a new Head is, realistically, not going to be willing to, or have time to, discuss in detail with prospective parents. Yet, it is worth asking the questions and hopefully gain a sense of affinity and trust from the answers.
- What are you looking for in a Grade 3 teacher?
- Will you be recruiting teachers from Hong Kong or elsewhere?
- Will your teachers be native speakers of English/Mandarin?
- What are the minimum qualifications you accept?
It seems unbelievable, but too many schools DO NOT check staff references or ensure their staff are up to date with their Sexual Conviction Record Checks! It is definitely worth asking any school if they do this and hold them accountable.
Essentially, you want to satisfy yourself that the school will recruit qualified teachers who can prove stable, adaptable and flexible and fit culturally.
The school will have little or no track record, no existing parents or alumni and seemingly nothing to evaluate. It takes time to grow a new school, to find its place and establish a culture. It is also probably fair to say that, for well known school brands, what works in one country/territory is NOT guaranteed to work in another.
Examine all aspects of the proposed school and ask yourself if it satisfies your expectations. Can you imagine sending your child there every single day and trusting that it is the best fit school for him/her? Trust your instinct.
This article first was published in the The Standard’s Good School’s Guide (August 2019) as ‘New Schools: Carefully Consider’.
Need help in selecting the best fit school for your child? Top Schools offers Admissions Consulting for parents of children aged 2-16 and their employers. We guide parents to gain admission into Hong Kong’s top private, international schools. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org | +852 3565 5865