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Tuesday 09-Aug-2016
【The Standard:Boarding Insider】Are there such things as cultural ghettos?

"I would not like my daughter to spend all her time with other girls from Hong Kong as her English language skills need to improve. With this in mind, what should we be looking out for when it comes to choosing a school?"

This concern shared by one local parent is a common one.

As a consultant, I can recommend schools to parents which generally have a low number of Chinese-speaking students. Oundle School, Wellington College and St Mary's Calne, an all- girls' school, spring to mind.

However, a deeper analysis of the situation is required.

If parents or children have their sights set on a school which may have a relatively high number of students from Hong Kong or China, they should not immediately discount it.

It is in children's nature to gravitate toward other children who speak their mother tongue.

Therefore, parents should not hold back in asking a school about the way it integrates children to ease their concerns.

It has come to light that teachers and staff do receive training sessions from organizations such as the Boarding Schools Association regarding the integration of foreign children who do not want to mix.

I can also add from my own experience and observations that it would harm a school's image if "cultural ghettos" surface so they do make sure that English is spoken.

As we live in an era of over-the-top marketing, nothing beats actually visiting a school and seeing for oneself firsthand what kind of interaction patterns are present.

Do all the girls from Hong Kong huddle together in the corner of the playground at break-time? Are after- school activities designed to integrate all pupils?

Is the school genuinely full- boarding or do only Hong Kong and Chinese students seem to remain in the dorms at weekends?

Parents could also look at Independent Schools Inspectorate reports to assess just how much a school is devoted to cross-cultural integration and pastoral care.

Sections such as "The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils" and "The Quality of Boarding" often reveal a great deal about the extent to which a school integrates overseas boarders into the life of their houses.

Overall, with patience and understanding, parents' fears about integration can be alleviated.

At the same time, we need to respect the market - and schools have seen a decline in applications from UK students and even diplomatic families sending pupils to boarding school.

Picture: Concord College

Original Article:

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Education Experts

Samuel Chan, the winner of Alumni Awards 2017, is the founder of Britannia. He had studied in the UK since the age of 9 for 15 years and achieved his master degree in International Political Economy at University of Warwick. Now he shares his experiences and professional advice in education columns in Hong Kong’s major newspapers.


Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.


MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

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