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星期四 2016年6月09號

【SCMP Education Post:Study in the UK】Parents choosing a UK boarding school need to be diligent and patient

Hong Kong parents wishing to educate their children at a British independent school need to be patient, as it takes time to find the institution that will be a perfect fit for them.  Moreover, a proficient education consultant must get to know each individual student, and help parents decipher marketing campaigns and rhetoric which have become all too similar.


After spending 17 glorious years in the UK, I established Britannia StudyLink in 2012 to provide a thorough and unbiased school selection platform for the residents of Hong Kong. StudyLink draws on my personal experiences of boarding-school life. As I progressed through the education system, it dawned on me that my time at boarding school was more about character development then being “well-educated”. Boarding school helped this withdrawn nine-year-old blossom into a confident, go-getting 17-year-old. This is the message I want to convey to clients.


The bleak days when an oligopoly ruled Hong Kong’s education consultancy sector are abating. Informative education exhibitions, seminars, and talks are now held, and consultants are now more aware of the need to get to know a child, and understand his or her personality and preferences.


But work still needs to be done to divert parents away from statistics and league tables when choosing a school. Instead, they should be looking for a school which offers a broad curriculum and a well-rounded education. Finding the right school takes work, and “you only get out of it what you put into it”. Parents need to do their research and put in some footwork to find a suitable school.


I formed my company after three years of hard work, during which time I knocked on the doors of over 200 schools. I worked hard to find out what really makes these schools tick. I looked beyond the snazzy facades and the predictable marketing tactics and glossy brochures and discovered what they were really about.


You can never rely on school prospectuses and marketing campaigns to make a decision. Of course, it is pleasing to look at pictures of grandiose buildings which hark back to the Victorian era, and green fields extending as far as you can see. But what lurks behind this facade? Visiting a broad range of schools reveals the ethos of each school, and their attitudes towards the students.


Parents should always visit a school during term-time, rather than at half-term.  This way, it’s possible to see the demeanour of the teachers, the way in which students interact with each other, and how classes are taught. Listen as well as look. Do students swear, or do they have animated discussions about the Big Bang Theory? Questions can also be put to a head teacher about policies to deal with bullying, and the school’s house system, if it offers boarding.  It’s a good way to find out how a school views its responsibility towards its pupils.


When I welcome parents into my office, I know what their first question will be: “Is this school at the top of the league table?” My feeling is that a league table is no the be-all and end-all, as it does little justice to those schools which provide excellent pastoral care, life-changing adventure programmes, and morale-boosting community service schemes. Take Mount Kelly school as an example. The school’s reputation for taking care of international families should be perhaps considered over its middling GCSE results.


There are many ways to choose the right school, but at the heart of the matter is the dialogue between parents and children, and between families and their educational consultant. A parent should not be tempted to second-guess their child’s wishes, needs and dreams; they should talk to their children about them.  


There are two crucial areas which I shall talk about in future columns: the respective advantages of attending a single-sex or a mixed-sex school, and the differences between schools in urban areas and rural areas. Parents should not simply guess what it might be like for their child to be surrounded by farm animals or huge skyscrapers, and how they will feel if they don’t have regular contact with members of the opposite sex. Parents must not be too embarrassed to have a genuine heart to heart with their child, as this will make the school selection process much easier.


I can still recall my own experiences of school life. I woke up on countless cold mornings in the dormitory of a rural Norfolk school, often wondering what my parents had done to me. Then came the visits to the seaside, the subjects I began to adore, and the friends and peers I could turn to for witty banter and sound advice. Indeed, patience had its own reward. 

Original Article: http://www.educationpost.com.hk/resources/education/160609-education-parents-choosing-a-uk-boarding-school-need-to-be-diligent-and-patient


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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