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Brand ESF - What is it?

  1. #31

    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    New Territories
    Posts
    72

    Hi all,

    My perspective:

    I have one child who is now in Y8 & one child in Y6.

    I'm not too concerned with "Brand ESF". They seem to be decent schools that provide education in an English medium. In the past 4 or 5 years, I have noticed that the ESF Centre's site has become more and more opaque. As a parent, I frankly think the ESF Centre staff are mostly a waste of space & money. But, as they say in my homeland "...whatever...". If I was in my homeland I'd probably be griping about the school board or the Education Dept. or other Powers That Be.

    In primary school I know they've been given assessment tests that were based on the British National Standards, and then the teachers let us know whether the children are meeting or exceeding targets.

    So, mostly I observe my kids. Do I think they are learning what they need to know? Am I satisfied with their progress? Do their teachers and I agree w/ what they are capable of and are we getting it out of them?

    So far, I'm OK with the schools they've gone to, they are more than adequate. In fact the primary school is MUCH better than my own primary school was.


  2. #32

    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    New Territories
    Posts
    72

    Oh, and I'm annoyed that they still haven't seemed to settle when the kids will start back the next school year. VERY annoying because how can I plan our summer if I don't know if they'll be returning to school in the beginning of August, the middle of August, or the end of August.

    ESF Centre... ptui!!!


  3. #33

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Hong Kong
    Posts
    432

    Welcome back Loupou!

    School starts on Aug 20th.


  4. #34

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    DB
    Posts
    26

    The changes in the calendar (if any) won't happen until the year after next ie.2010-2011, and maybe even later.


  5. #35

    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Kowloon, Hong Kong
    Posts
    1

    Maybe a student's perspective would help?

    I'm currently studying at KGV and doing my GCSE exams right now. I've been part of ESF since P1 and its a very good base for a student to grow on.

    Syllabuses are usually given to students informing them of what they are required to know after completing a course/unit. I am very well aware that a student is required 5C's mininmum to carry on their studies into IB. In previous years less than 2 students on average do not meet these requirements and every year, the students keep exceeding the grades of the previous year. Last year, KGV had around 60% of their students gaining all A/A*'s in their GCSE exams. This would be the first year for IB exams to be carried out. PYP was granted around a year or two ago, which would be the reason to the lack of direct nformation on the topic.

    Personally, I feel ESF has given me a very good platform to grow in. I'm vocal, curious and confident in myself - skills that allows me to research and find out information on my own. Extra activites also allow students to build leadership and motivate them - which would add to their topics learnt in school.

    The schools believe that it is very important for students to use their own intuition to increase their knowledge. Classes are taught to according to the various learning styles - kinestetic, musical, visual, auditory etc. For example, when studying a book in English the teacher would give different approaches to each chapter - presenation on the themes in that chapter, role play of a vital part to keep the book going, an essay on the different techniques used by the author or even write a song that can depict the emotions a certain character is going through.

    Chinese shouldn't be a problem any more - Primary schools have doubled the amount of time they spend teaching students the language since I've been there and Secondary schools have made it a compulsory subject.

    Each school does have a different perspective - in the way that they each of a niche in different areas of acedemics (KGV's a very muscical/acedemic school, WIS is very sporty, STC is very drama/arts etc). The different schools also offer different subjects for GCSE and IB which creates room for different forms of learning. However, the methods used and the information learnt is very much standardised.

    Recently, I've been accepted into a school in the UK and been awarded a scholarship - being the only student in Hong Kong to get it. I think that it is due to the ESF methods and teachings that allowed me to be able to shine - especially since the curriculum and teachings are parallel to those in the UK.

    Some more approximate statistics that were given to us during IB subject options -
    48% of students are now studying in UK unis
    30% of students are now studying in USA universities
    12% of students are now studying in Australia or other countries
    6% of students are studying in Hong Kong
    The remaining students are on a gap year with work placements.


  6. #36

    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    New Territories
    Posts
    72

    Thanks, Rani & Happy V for the info. on the school start date.


  7. #37

    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    2

    Hi, I'm from Shatin College and perhaps I can help shed some light on the mysterious 'brand' of the ESF.

    Currently, I'm studying law in one of the top 5 universities in the UK. I wouldn't say I was on the top of the academic pile, but I managed to do fine nevertheless. I'm a native English speaker, but I am also Chinese in ethnicity. One of my largest problems is not knowing how to write or read Cantonese. My spoken Cantonese is understandable, but it very much depends on the company you keep (and whether they regularly engage you in Cantonese).

    From the academic side of things, I don't think that STC is a bad place at all. Last year, the dip in IB grades (the average score being a respectable 32, and it is usually 34 - well above average by global standards) was (rather uncouthly, by the Principle's Annual Report itself) explained by the year's "unusual academic profile" - the surprising addition of 20 or so students from Phoenix secondary school. These students did not have a proper GCSE base and spoke mostly Cantonese, making it difficult to reach their full potential in the compulsory International Baccalaureate scheme. Till this day I'm still unsure why the college decided to lump in 20 more students into STC, but I suspect these ESF schematics are not let on to the students themselves.

    The IB course is fairly well taught. I received a score of 37, and it is a pick-and-mix of teachers, although the overall the standard is high. They are talented and usually quite approachable. Last year, 2 students got into Oxbridge universities (with about 6 of us being asked for an interview), but there has never been a student to enter Harvard before. There have been offers for prestigious Ivy schools in America, but some students chose not to go to Ivy schools. A small percentage go on gap years or apply to Australia (the land where the university requirements are apparently 'lower', as the rumour goes); a larger percentage apply to HK universities, and quite a few to Canada (especially UBC -- huge shipment every year). Some progess to other colleges for specific courses. Very few do not go to university at all.

    The teaching methods are varied. I found the Biology IB class was the most engaging and attempted to teach by many different methods. Some, inevitably, ploughed on, text-book based (such as psychology), and can be demotivating for the students. As an individual, I am a curious, creative person but I don't feel this has been necessarily cultivated by the school itself - I've been involved with many other activities outside of school. On the other hand, the wonderful CAS program with the ability to do charity work, go overseas and generally learn about the world is a great, great aspect of STC. Students can create their own societies if they wish, and the school is keen to delegate 'positions' (e.g. head of house, creativity etc.) though I warn the students do not have any real power over the running of the school - only minor, insignificant aspects that the school hails as 'proactivism'. But anyway, I am glad they are re-implementing overseas trips to the CAS program, especially after a long stint of teacher strikes due to salary cuts.

    Overall teaching standard? Good. Classes in IB are very small - sometimes 4 or 5. Teachers are experienced and interesting. GCSE was well taught and there were great materials. IB is well-funded and we were able to use many resources available in the library or in the specific departments.

    The structural building itself:
    STC is small. Spaces are always limited, computers are hard to get to unless you book in advance or come in really early, and the stairs are crowded during transferring between classes/breaks. I am especially pleased at the new sports hall that STC boasts - beautiful, olympic-sized swimming pool with a state-of-the-art gym. Classrooms are a good size, and the library is comfortable. Books are readily available and the librarians have historically been very helpful, providing presentations on writing up bibliographies/references/effective searching. The canteen is slightly expensive but not drastically so; I survived easily on $50 a day, and I often bought snacks and lots of food. An average meal/lunchbox with a drink is around $22 (if they haven't increased the price). Queue lines for the canteen are deadly and were the bane of my existence, especially on the rainy days.

    The school is trying to implement a 'greener' lifestyle by small changes such as paper recycling, turning off the lights and using reusable cutlery. The school has also agreed to some of the requests by the student council, such as going home early if a study break is at the end of the day, or design competitions for the new sports team name, and so on. Relatively insignificant, but it still gets kids excited about things.

    Also, for the record: most of the students at STC are ethnically Chinese, but there are vast differences in economic situations.

    Now for the things that I had slight gripes with about the school. I hope this is helpful, and please understand that they are solely my experiences, and undoubtedly they will differ from student to student:
    There is a segregation between Caucasian students and 'traditional' Chinese students. This does not mean any racism of course, and the language barrier is a natural divider between the two ... all I am saying is that both sides don't often try to mix. There is an overlap between the Chinese students who have more Western values, but I found this to be incredibly consistent from year to year. Cliques are incredibly well defined, but this is high school and is to be expected. There are students who dabble in drugs and there have been cases of expulsion (as with any school) and other scandals. These are usually extremely rare though, and occur most often in an isolated demographic.

    I also feel that the PTA/school is afraid of tripping on the media's fingers... in an all-too-paranoid way. Many years back, the school somewhat enforced a policy that each student had to sell two stacks of raffle tickets for the annual STC fair, and if they didn't they'd have to see a teacher about it (it was all very ominous). One student had a mother who was in the journalism field, and published a piece condemning the school for 'forcing' their students to sell these tickets. The school backed off immediately and denied any forcing whatsoever, and from then on has been strangely lenient about anybody who doesn't even sell one ticket...

    I also remember running a creative writing magazine in the earlier years, and after the sex survey scandal with CUHK, the school - desperate to not go under the scrutiny of the media, although it has no ties with CUHK whatsoever - started to cut out pieces from the magazine that may be questionnable (e.g. about prostitution etc. - and the magazine was ironically called "Voice"). The PTA sent off a message of helplessness - Sorry, we can't do anything about it, we need to be careful about what we do, you're only children - and it was just a testament, I suppose, but an altogether natural one.

    To be fair, I don't have much to complain about. I found many of the students to be academic, talented, and their talents were able to find an output. The school holds dramas and orchestras ever year and they're always of high quality.

    As for other ESF branches, I was under the impression that STC was labelled the "academic" one, whilst IS/SIS were musically talented and so on. KGV was seen as the rich and big branch, and there has been some playful banter between the two, nothing serious.

    I hope this has been helpful. Sorry for making it so long, but I wanted to portray the school as accurately as I could. Not doing so would be doing an injustice to an overall very good school.


  8. #38

    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Hong Kong
    Posts
    21

    I've just read the whole of this thread and do not have any answers to What is the ESF Brand. I'm just adding my own ramblings about ESF schools.

    My son will be entering Year 11 after the summer break. And I have already been to meetings at the school he attends (West Island School) about his options in Years 12 & 13. He is not really suited to study the IB and so I'm interested in the Advanced Diploma being offered.

    I discovered that each ESF secondary school is offering different Advanced Diplomas and was advised to shop around so that we find the best fit for our son. It was definitely implied that it would be possible to change schools after Year 11. Fortunately for us it seems that West Island is offering the course he is most interested in and so no change will be necessary.

    My view about education is that most schools are teaching very similar subjects and have similar goals during the primary years. But as the children grow older and their natural talents and problems become clearer then the curriculum becomes more important. It does worry me that almost all the international schools in Hong Kong have moved across to IB without a care for the children that IB doesn't suit. Maybe I'm unlucky that IB isn't the best choice for my children. I sent my elder son to a boarding school in the UK where he studied A levels to avoid IB. I'm happy that my younger son can study an alternative here and that he doesn't have to leave Hong Kong in order to do so.

    As a mother of children with dyslexia I find that the ESF schools are much better at helping than the other international school my children attended. I have no fear that my children will get to Year 9 and be asked to leave the school (this happened to some of my son's friends). I have found that I have to remind all my children's teachers each year that there are learning issues - it seems that no teacher is able to read my child's report without my prompting. Now I understand that this is necessary although part of me thinks that the teacher should automatically read each child's report. But at least at ESF they do read the report and act on it - this has come as a welcome change from their previous school.


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