The Learning Journey
Choosing the right kindergarten for your child can be tricky. It’s the first step before primary school, and often the first time your child experiences a school environment. We sat down with the team at Galilee International School to learn more about how they handle these important transitions.
In her four years at Galilee International School (GIS) principal Esther Acker has seen the school grow and develop from a playgroup and pre-nursery to now offering classes up to K3. The school prides itself on its ability to adequately prepare its graduates for primary school, whether they are going on to an international school or a local school. Esther says,
“I’m proud to say that one hundred per cent of our graduates go to the primary school of their choice.”
As a relatively small school with a high teacher-to-student ratio, they pride themselves on being able to offer something quite unique. There are three factors in the GIS approach that have contributed to the school’s success – individualised learning, curriculum, and language. As an IB accredited school, GIS offers the Primary Years Program. PYP coordinator Anika Saxena says,
“The unique feature of the IB programme is that it reflects the best practice of a range of different educational frameworks. The PYP is flexible enough to accommodate the demands of most local curricula and provides the best preparation for students to engage in learning experiences.”
The school has also adopted elements of the Reggio method, early years foundation stage and the local Hong Kong pre-primary curriculum – taking the best aspects of each and adapting them to create a student-centred teaching approach. In providing an inquiry-based education, in a technology rich environment, and adding hands-on experiential learning, GIS helps students learn how to learn.
This flexibility and small class sizes mean that teachers can really adapt how they teach, and often what they teach for each student, depending on where they will go to primary school. This requires an understanding of each child as an individual and it is something the school seems to excel at.
The school’s Christian ethos also lends itself well to the IB philosophy of nurturing the whole child. Bible studies are tied to the PYP Learner Profiles, and children are taught how to apply these values to real life through taking action and demonstrating caring. This is further enhanced by the school’s international mindedness. With students from a diverse range of backgrounds, the values of compassion and respect for the culture of others are built into every aspect of the school day. It’s an approach that goes beyond the teaching of religion.
With many families living close to the school, there’s a strong sense of community. Festivals and cultural events are celebrated to ensure that all students have the opportunity to share their beliefs and practices with their classmates. Esther says,
“We have an open door policy. Parents are invited in to celebrate with us and to share their culture and talents.”
Parents are active partners in their children’s education and just as they support the school with their enthusiasm and expertise, the school supports them.
As the children prepare for primary school, GIS holds parent workshops, answering their questions and providing information on the skills that the children will need for the coming years. From bringing in a psychologist to talk about social skills, to informing on the local primary one admission process, the school helps families face the challenges ahead.
For some families, one of these challenges may be language. To meet the language needs of all students, GIS offers instruction in English with both Cantonese and Mandarin studied as subjects each day. Traditional Chinese characters are taught, in line with local and many international schools. Esther says,
“Children will learn vocabulary and concepts related to their unit of inquiry, which includes Chinese culture as well.”
Language is offered as one of the school’s extension programmes – or after school classes. The school hopes to grow this programme and offer more opportunities for learning, but for now they offer classes in drama, art, music, science and language. The extension programme is another way GIS helps students prepare for primary school. Anika says,
“through the extension programme students get used to different teachers, a longer day, and sharing creative activities with their peers.”
Sharing is a common theme running throughout the school. At the end of a unit of inquiry the students’ work is displayed in the foyer, and other classes take a ‘gallery walk’ to celebrate the success and learning of their friends. Alumni of the school are also invited back to share their experiences of primary school a few months in, and they still come back and participate in the Christmas Fair and Easter Parade.
While the school places a strong emphasis on global thinking, it’s obvious many of the students leave knowing that small, local communities have much to offer as well.
This article appeared in Playtimes February Issue 2018.