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Small Schools: The Education Potential

By ITS Education Asia

This year's enrolment at International College, Hong Kong (ICHK) – a small secondary school, located in Sha Tau Kok, in the beautiful New Territories – is 315. That makes it one of the smallest secondary schools in Hong Kong. "We are a small community school. It is intentionally small, our polices, approaches and culture all flow from this deliberate decision”, Head of School, Toby Newton, states.  

Simply put, smaller schools allow for more personalized attention for students due to smaller classes, and low teacher-student ratios translate into more focus students and their overall development. “With a low student to adult ratio, learners receive the individual attention and guidance they need; there is a high degree of interaction between teacher and student, and also between students, which is key to our learning philosophy, says Principal Newton.

With this being said, from a cognitive standpoint, scaling back class size is good because it offers the opportunity to delve deeper into the curriculum and provide individualized teaching. It’s equally beneficial from a social standpoint—fewer students in classroom makes participation inescapable, but also usually less intimidating.

In additions, there exists in a small school a sense of pride, and an attitude and sense of personal possession and involvement on the part of students and teachers. Morale among students tends to be higher in small schools. There are fewer students to be leaders in clubs and organizations and to participate in performances and competitions. Hence, students are generally exposed to more opportunity to develop leadership skills in a greater diversity of situations.

Mr Newton adds that spirit is highly encouraged at ICHK and strong relationships are developed across the home – school partnership and school leaders can be far more involved with individual students than they could be in a larger school situation.

“There is nothing small about the education students receive at ICHK. IB Diploma results are consistently well above world average and our graduates have an enviable record of securing their university destination of first choice. An innovative curriculum, strong exam results and a history of adding value, provide an international education that is deeply connected to Hong Kong, Asia and beyond”.

“Students with a specific interest or passion are more likely to find these noticed and built upon, while learners experiencing difficulty are quickly identified and issues rapidly addressed”, says Adam McGuigan, Head of ICHK's Kindergarten and Primary campus.

And as a result of this, teachers are more apt to know their students as individuals and to be familiar with the family backgrounds from which they come. Students in small schools also interact more frequently and informally with the teacher and with each other.

Discovery Mind Primary School (DMPS), located on Lantau Island, with campuses in Discovery Bay and Tung Chung, believes the emotional wellbeing and safety of their students is paramount to their individual success.

“Every single child matters to us and we foster a positive and caring environment with the aim being to grow confident, happy, self-motivated and resilient learners”, says Rachel Humphreys, Principal of DMPS. “We ensure that each child progresses at their own individual level through differentiation, intervention and support programs. We involve children and parents in feedback and target setting. Regular assessment provides us with a detailed picture of each child’s needs, and we provide support as required plus extension and challenge for our more able learners”

She adds that the broad and balanced curriculum, based on the National Curriculum of England and supplemented with the International Primary Curriculum, sets high standards and supports the international body of students with diverse needs and interests.

“We foster an optimal learning environment with small classes, high teacher to student ratio, opportunities for independent, peer and group work and learning that is customised at the right level and pace for each individual, unique child. Yet our focus is not only on academic endeavours. We explore together the three school values of Respect, Responsibility, Resilience and these values underpin every aspect of school life”

As Ofsted in the UK (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills), reported a few years ago, small schools have a positive ethos that fosters ‘a family atmosphere’, ‘good standards of behaviour’ and ‘close links’ with parents and community’.

To learn more about International College Hong Kong, visit: https://www.ichk.edu.hk/home/our-school/secondary/

To learn more about Discovery Mind Primary school, visit: http://www.discoverymind.edu.hk/dm_en


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