SCMP Saturday, December 16, 2000


Give children the opportunity to benefit from alternative schools

My experience with primary schooling for my two boys, now nine and 12, has been positive and some readers may identify with the dilemmas we faced as English-speaking Chinese from the US.
My older son has recently entered an "elite" secondary school here after completing his primary years in an usual school for Hong Kong: a village school, with fewer than 20 students, class sizes one to four, student body mixed by age, academic preparation and nationality. Cantonese was the main language but English was used to help integrate students.
I stumbled upon this school in Nim Shue Wan (next to Discovery Bay) for my then six-year-old in 1994.
Coming from Houston, Texas, my son had been in a school for potentially gifted children and speaking only English, it must have seemed the logical choice to put him in an international school.
But I was looking for a local experience close to home and the opportunity for my son to be immersed in a Chinese-speaking environment.
At the Nim Shue Wan school, the international and social mix of students meant my son did not feel out of place. The low teacher-student ratio was an unexpected find, and the environment was more of a 'home school'. One of his first tasks was to grow a tomato plant.
As an alternative to mainstream schools, is it not worth considering? My second son is now at this school, and I hope my infant son will also have this opportunity.
Discovery Bay