This blog is based on information available at time of writing (27th February 2020).
As the school closures in Hong Kong have been extended until April 20th it seemed a pertinent time to write with what we hope will be helpful information during this uncertain time.
As schools and businesses are being forced to make use of online resources the quality of the provision seems to vary quite significantly. This article details the approaches taken by a few schools, but the feedback we have received from parents has been mixed and the support given by schools seems to fluctuate. This is compounded by the time difference for the families that remained in the UK after CNY. The networks in China seem to be struggling with the 200 million children trying to access online lessons and working parents have shared concerns about the practicalities of online schooling. The challenges faced by parents have led to calls for school fees to be refunded or the school holidays to be reduced which has been opposed by a teachers’ union.
Alongside the understandable frustration and concern the current situation is also prompting innovation for online learning as schools, universities and work places are being forced to up their game which could lead to developments and polishing of online teaching techniques. Universities will have to adapt and this might lead to an expansion of online programmes for future students and better collaboration between institutions as students can access online resources elsewhere. Only time will tell.
We have collated answers to the frequently asked questions we have received recently below, which we hope alleviates some of the concerns you might have.
Will UK school entrance exams be affected?
Many UK schools postponed entrance exams that were to be taken in the UK and schools that were due to test in Hong Kong have cancelled. Some schools have asked applicants to take exams at approved locations (see next question) and others are offering interviews by Skype. For upcoming assessment days and visits most schools are asking that attendees quarantine themselves for 14 days beforehand, even though they realise this is often impractical and are offering postponements. Do ask the individual schools as their processes will vary and will be updated based on the latest information.
Where can we take UK school entrance exams in Hong Kong and how do we arrange this?
For written exams schools will usually request they are taken at The British Council which was closed until this week. They have now resumed invigilation on a limited basis and we have successfully booked time slots for postponed exams for students in early March. Computerised tests including the UKiset and ISEB pre-tests can be taken at Academic Asia in Causeway Bay who are still open and offering these tests. You can email them directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange a time and date. Alternatively the Keystone office in Admiralty is registered to invigilate both exams if Academic Asia cannot accommodate you and the school approves this arrangement.
Will GCSE /A Level/IB exams be affected?
The major exam boards are reviewing the situation and have said they will release an update soon. It is likely that exams will go ahead as planned given that the HKEAA and the IB Organisation have released updates confirming the exams will go ahead as planned. The examination officers in schools will be in touch with the exam boards and will be best placed to update you as and when they receive information.
Will the disruption be taken into account in the exam results?
We are now considering UK schools, how do we decide which school would suit our child?
Moving to a UK school is a big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are many factors that affect school choice such an entry point (11+, 13+ or 16+), boarding vs day, single sex vs co-ed, location, size etc. and these should be considered carefully. We have seen an increase in enquiries about UK schools as families contemplate educating their children outside of Hong Kong earlier than planned. Keystone can support families applying for UK schools for all entry points. If you have any questions about the UK education system or would like to find out more about our advisory services please do not hesitate to get in touch to arrange a no-commitment call or a coffee.
Can we enrol in a UK school to start ASAP instead of going back to Asia?
Starting mid-year is not unheard of, but this would usually happen when the student plans to stay for the following academic year. Staying for one term is not usually possible given the administrative burden on the school, but there is no harm in contacting the schools you have in mind. If you are interested in a place for September 2020, there might be places available at some schools and do get in touch if you would like us to help with this as we are in touch with many schools and often know where they are places.
Can we visit schools if we are in the UK?
If you have been in the UK for more than 14 days schools should be able to accommodate visits if they have the availability and you fulfil their requirements (some schools will ask for school reports or test results to check academic suitability). Do contact the schools to enquire, but do be patient as they are being inundated with requests.
Does online learning work?
We believe so, given that we have taught nearly 130,000 successful lessons online (over 60% of our tutoring is now conducted online). However, whereas our lessons are all conducted one-to-one and are bespoke, online learning on a larger scale is more difficult as it becomes harder for the educator to ensure all students are making progress. At the current time, online learning from school is better than nothing and many teachers are doing their utmost to help under difficult circumstances. If you would like any supplementary online tutoring to support your children’s learning do take a look at our online tutoring video or get in touch to organise a lesson.
Are there online resources I can use with my children?
- BBC Bitesize was the original online resource, having been launched in 1998 and contains a wealth of tasks and activities for ages 3-16 following the UK curriculum. At GCSE the resources are categorised by exam board to ensure the correct topics are being studied. Unfortunately not all the videos work outside of the UK, but all the written resources and tests do.
- Khan Academy is an excellent resource providing free personalised courses in a wide range of topics from basic algebra through to computer science and understanding capital markets. For ages 2-7 they have an app, and otherwise you can track your progress using the website.
- For students taking computerised pre-tests there are various websites you can subscribe to which provide practice exercises and mock exams. Our recommendations would be Keystone Tests, BOFA, Atom Learning and Bond.
- Lumosity is a brain-training resource originally created for commuters that uses evidence based tasks that claim to improve memory and focus. Can be used in-between study periods or to help with non-verbal reasoning.