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星期二 2019年5月14號

【The Standard】Asia's view on top UK schools

Every year, families in Asia interested in UK education are presented with agents' lists of so-called top schools in the UK.These lists may seem like a sensible way to choose a good school but they often create problems for parents and families.

They create confusion by treating different types of school as though they are all the same and can lead to poorly placed, unhappy pupils and school hopping.

Choosing the right school is about more than just compiling lists. It's about understanding the character of every school, knowing what makes it unique then matching it to the personality of the student.

Here, I want to demystify the scene by explaining some of the major differences between apparently similar schools that achieve top positions on these lists, and by unpacking some key terms.

TS Channel

Firstly, the termpublic school itself can be confusing. Anyone who enjoys both British and American pop music, TV series or films may be confused because in American English, a fee-charging school is called aprivate school whilst a government school is called apublic school.

In British English, a fee-charging school is often referred to as either apublic school or aprivate school.

The reason for the UK's two labels comes from the centuries-long history of these schools, many of which were originally charitable organizations that went on to take boys fromthe public, anywhere in the country, rather than just the local area. By the 19th and early 20th century, some of these had grown in reputation and their names were synonymous with success, wealth and power. Often, however, these reputations had rather more to do with social status than with the quality of teaching or the facilities.

Today, we can look at the whole range of fee-charging schools in the UK from a more modern perspective. We can assess them all on their own merits, on their teaching, their facilities, their university application process and the happiness of their pupils.

It's helpful to recognize the history of such big names as Eton, Harrow and Winchester whilst also separating their top fees and traditional high social status from the all-round package they offer a student in the 21st century.

For a prospective parent in China, it's useful to understand that some schools in the UK are primarilyday schools that have always had limited boarding or have expanded over the last few decades to offer boarding facilities. This is opposed to schools that have always been primarilyboarding schools.

This difference shows itself in both the scheduling (school on Saturday and sport fixture in the afternoon versus a five-day school week) and the level of integration for international students.

For example, Abingdon School in Oxfordshire is a very good school with a history of over 750 years. However, it has only three boarding houses. Harrow School, in contrast, has 12.

At Uppingham School, a student from Hong Kong is likely to be put in a dormitory to mix with British students. In contrast, at Bromsgrove School, one of my favorite schools in the UK, there is more likelihood of Hongkongers sticking with their own kind - one of the school house is located outside the campus (converted from a hotel) and is highly sought after by Hong Kong pupils.

Another key difference often not covered in top lists is location and the effect of the local population and natural surroundings on the experience.

Shrewsbury School is on the banks of the River Severn. It's no surprise then that its sailing club is the envy of even Oxford and Cambridge. Bromsgrove School is in the Midlands and as such it has a very meritocratic ethos and is unconcerned with creating an elitist image or atmosphere.

Meanwhile, in London, many private schools, such as Whitgift School, are ethnically diverse due to the diversity of the population of London. The result is a multi-cultural experience. In contrast, some areas of the UK will be far more conservative and the schools will, to some extent, reflect this.

That doesn't mean some schools are better than others. The examples are simply to illustrate that every school is different. Top school lists tend to overlook these subtle differences.


1 寄宿百科 2 英國大學
3 談英國 4 赴英須知
5 赴英遊學 6 選校攻略
7 留英所得 8 親子關係
9 英名校大比拼 10 留英專家分享

陳思銘(Samuel Chan) 並非如一般外界人所認為的「富二代留學生」,家人數代都在流浮山經營海鮮買賣,父母學歷程度雖然不高,但努力工作賺錢把Samuel從小(9歲)就供養到英國寄宿學校格雷舍姆學院 (Gresham College)讀書,才能讓他早早就體會到英式教育優越全世界的原因。
Samuel Chan在留英之前亦都曾苦於在香港的教育體系中掙扎求存,但是香港朝令夕改的教育制度卻令他的成續止步不前,甚至感到老師也對自己失去興趣。直到接受英式教育後,他深深感受到兩地學制的差異:在英國,永遠是先發掘學生的興趣,再透過「興趣」作為推動其學習的原動力,釋放潛能。在英國,他獲得了使自己能夠表達自己並嘗試新事物的信心,最終以優秀的成續升讀英國頂尖的學府。
Samuel Chan留英長達15年,在諾定咸大學(University of Nottingham)獲得經濟學學士後,在華威大學(The University of Warwick)攻讀完政治經濟系碩士後回流香港。回流香港的Samuel鑑有感於香港教育制度無法充分釋放學生潛力,於是回流英國的他創辦了英識教育,以幫助更多有志留學英國的同學提供各類支援及顧問服務。
白手興手固然辛苦,但奮鬥數年英識教育終獲香港品牌發展局頒發「香港服務名牌」的升學教育中心,亦是同業首間獲此認證的品牌。後來,Samuel於2017年奪得「英國傑出校友獎」,該獎是英國文化協會及多家英國高等院校的共同構思,並由英國文化協舉辦,評選活動獲不少名人及王室人員支持及參與。可見,讓身為香港人的「陳思銘」的名字深深烙印在英國學術界傑出人仕的陳列櫃中。雖然事業受到肯定,但Samuel並不安於現狀,後來在2020年更創立Britannia Gateway 的學術培訓平台,提供更多元化的課程以幫助客戶適應英國課程。

論名氣,Oundle 未追得上 Eton、Wycombe Abbey 等頂級名校,但學校的學術成績在英國依然名列前茅。作為傳統名校,Oundle 非常重視全人發展,為學生提供多元課餘活動選擇。學校奉行英國碩果僅存的 House Dining System,或是令香港家長趨之若鶩的一大原因。
Bromsgrove 的師生比例是一比八,比一般的寄宿學校低。此外,綜合我曾到訪的學校,此校硬件設施之完善,可入選全英設備最佳的三大校園。校方不惜工本為學生提供舒適環境,甚至收購附近的酒店改建成宿舍,令宿生有名符其實的「五星級享受」。此校極具前瞻性,是國際化的英國宿校。
Brighton College 是英國首屈一指的私校,是香港家長最愛的寄宿學校之一。 看一間學校,除了教育宗旨、多元化活動、成績之外,更要看校長的魄力。十年前,校長 Mr. Richard Cairns 成為 Brighton College 校長後,把學校由全英國接近 150 名推至首 20 名。除了在教育方針上大力推動改革之外,也為了保持學生的求知慾而非常努力,是難得的好校長。
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