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【The Standard】Beauty of British boarding school system

Boarding 101


When a bright student joins a nurturing UK independent school, endless rewards, a lifelong love for learning and a continuous string of achievements and successes can ensue.

Hans Chan is one Hong Kong student now reaching for the stars, thanks to Christ’s Hospital School. The boarding school in Horsham, West Sussex, has one of the most diverse student bodies in the country.

It also provides more bursaries than any other independent school.

Now a student at Imperial College London – his first choice – Chan began to show his promise as a scientist during his sixth form studies at Christ’s.

He won the best sixth form chemist and joint overall award by the Thames Valley Society of Chemical Industries amid fierce competition from pupils belonging to 30 schools in three southern English counties.

Chan’s research on cryogels and his extended essay on the bioavailability of oxygen caught the judges’ attention.

Undoubtedly, Christ’s Hospital played a huge role in Chan’s progress and achievements.

He was quick to praise his science and maths teachers “who were staggeringly enthusiastic about their respective subjects, which was almost contagious.”

He was also grateful to his mentors for guiding him toward the targets that he set for himself.

In 2015, Chan was accepted into the Nuffield research placement scheme. There were 500 applicants for the 20 placements.

During the summer holidays, he assisted the University of Brighton’s doctors with their lab research into cryogels and their use in water purification. He wrote a technical report on his findings and presented these during a symposium at the University of Brighton.

He was later presented with a CREST gold award, the highest achievement, for his independent research placement.

Christ’s also helped to shape Chan as a writer. He credited his mentors for getting him into shape as “scientific literature follows a very specific objective format that presents observations and draws likely conclusions, different from most writing.”

Writing “without being bound by simple facts, but impartially about facts” – a difficult skill to master – is another technique he learned at Christ’s.

Chan spoke admirably about the value of a British boarding education.

Boarding at Christ’s helped him to “shift to a healthier balance between solitude and socializing,” he said.

The friends he made there became friends for life. As children spend so much time with fellow boarders, “you turn from friends to soul mates and you tell each other everything,” he said.

Aside from making friends, a British education also stresses inclusivity and the delivery of a co-curricular program where activities help to hone skills which can be put to the test in the classroom and later in life – “skills such as leadership, self-management and presenting are some of them”.

He praised British education as it “places a lot of emphasis on all-round, holistic learning. You seldom learn about just one area of knowledge, and areas of knowledge are seldom judged based on their practicality. Of course you have the choice to specialize, but I was certainly encouraged to learn about other subjects at Christ’s partly because they complemented my studies.”

Chan’s modesty is admirable. Although he patently is a crackerjack scientist, he dedicates his successes to the “brilliant staff” at Christ’s who stimulated his interest in science.