Emma Vanbergen is a mother of three children. Having spent the past 18 years in China, Emma recently moved to Hong Kong with her family. When deciding on the right school for Sebastian (Year 2) and Alexia (Year 1) , Emma chose Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong as the place for her children to be. What made WASHK the school of choice for Emma and her children?
Emma and her three children
A Balance of Excellent Chinese & English
My first principle in choosing a school for my children is that the school’s Chinese and English curriculum must be equally balanced and excellent.
In today’s world, Chinese and English are equally important. As a British family living in China, I believe that children should learn to be fluent in both languages. Sebastian’s first school prior to WASHK did not quite meet my expectations for this, and after much research, I decided to enroll Sebastian to Wycombe Abbey.
Before Sebastian started at WASHK, he had not learned Chinese phonetics. Although he could speak Putonghua, he could only read a few words. Now, after a year at Wycombe Abbey, I personally feel his progress in Chinese has rapidly improved. He can read stories and books in Chinese, and write in Chinese, which has exceeded my expectations.
I attribute this growth in Sebastian to the immersive language environment at Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong. Sebastian tells me that during Chinese classes at WASHK, the teachers only speak in Chinese, and not a “Chinese-English” mix, thus creating an engaging classroom concentrated on pure Chinese.
Chinese is taught daily, with all Chinese classes taught in Putonghua, with simplified characters for reading and writing Chinese.
With the success witnessed with Sebastian, I was more than happy to let Alexia follow her brother’s footstep. It was a big step for Alexia because prior to joining Wycombe Abbey, she had many months of pre-school remote learning (due to COVID) where there was very few chances for social interactions.
I think Alexia really enjoys this aspect of school life since starting here, she often come home after school and talks about her friends.
The process of effective learning is easier said than done, and it is often difficult to achieve the balance of motivation, academics, and engagement. I feel that children studying at WASHK are happy, while being challenged each day to build character and resilience.
Every teacher at Wycombe Abbey has his/her unique ways of tapping into what children love, and cleverly integrating their passions into the classrooms to stimulate that interest in learning. This is precisely the golden key to the door of effective learning.
Sebastian loves insects, and in the first few Chinese classes, the teacher’s topic revolved around insects – how they move, how they fly, how unique their shapes are…Sebastian was so fascinated that he came home and excitedly told me, “My Chinese teacher is awesome!”.
Now Sebastian is also learning poetry and Chinese literature, which he thoroughly enjoys. Although it’s not insects, the fact that the teacher was able to spark an intimate level of interest to Chinese through Sebastian’s love for insects, has translated to a thriving teacher/student relationship.
Sebastian also loves science, and anything related to science, such as coding and programming. Although it may seem difficult for a 6-year-old, the school does a great job of incorporating fun games such as Minecraft into the STEM curriculum.
Sebastian would play for hours, and at first, I did not realize that he was actually “learning”. After seeing how the game is in fact, built into the curriculum, I now can see the effectiveness of learning through shared interests and relevant engagement, something WASHK has managed to achieve successfully.
Another reason I decided to choose Wycombe Abbey for Sebastian, was because Sebastian’s previous school did not really offer personalised teaching.
At his previous school, Sebastian was a bit ahead on some subjects compared to his classmates, but his teacher did not offer any special or personalised teaching to cater to Sebastian’s advanced level. There was a time when Sebastian complained to me and felt that he was hardly learning anything at school.
Since we have joined WASHK, it has been very different. Because of the small class sizes, teachers have more capacity to tend and tailor to each child’s academic level and learning potential.
For example, Sebastian’s daily vocabulary lists is different than his classmates’. Although this may seem like a small detail to highlight, it is very important, and goes to show that even with small matters as such, the teachers at WASHK will go above and beyond to customize different schedules and programs based on each child’s academic needs.
In addition, the teachers at WASHK also take into consideration each child’s learning style.
Sebastian likes to take things step by step when he is learning, setting clear goals for himself and achieving his goals with this method. His teachers at WASHK fully understand this and has adjusted the ways in which they communicate and teach Sebastian so he can fully engage and learn. Instead of making the student adjust to the teacher’s way of teaching, it is the other way around. This method of personalised teaching allows Sebastian to reach his maximum potential and allows him to express himself and a safe and nurturing environment.
Emma's three children
Alexia happens to be taught by the same class teacher who taught Sebastian last year, so I can see how each child is motivated differently according to their own personalities. Alexia enjoys helping others, and was recently awarded the “Start of the week” for helping others in class, she was super proud about this and it really helped fuel her motivation. She is now settling nicely into her daily routines with daily spelling homework and she enjoys having a go figuring out words in her story books.
As a parent, I appreciate this very much, and the teaching staff at WASHK has been exemplary.
British Prep School Ethos
Although it’s still early, I do plan to have Sebastian and Alexia attend boarding school in the UK once he is old enough to do so. Normally that is around age 13. Finding a British prep school in Hong Kong to help prepare Sebastian for boarding school was very important. With Wycombe Abbey’s outstanding reputation in the UK, and WASHK’s British prep school ethos, I believe WASHK is the perfect school for Sebastian’s transition to the UK.
I was ecstatic to hear the good news that Wycombe Abbey Hong Kong has opened Year 7 and Year 8 this August. This is accompanied by the school’s Secondary School Guidance Programme, which is an in-house programme designed to help support students and their families who are interested in transitioning to top boarding schools and secondary schools in the UK and the world.
When Sebastian finishes Year 8 at WASHK, he will be fully prepared for his transition to boarding school in the UK. The same is in the plan for Alexia.
Mr. Tuckett, the Headmaster of Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong, has had extensive experience of leading British preparatory schools, knows very well how to prepare children for Common Entrance exams, school admissions interviews, and various critical stages of their education.
Although the Secondary School Guidance Programme just began this year, he has already helped many Wycombe Abbey Hong Kong students receive placement offers to some of the top boarding schools in the UK, including two current student offers to Wycombe Abbey UK, one of the best academically and most difficult secondary schools to get in the UK.
I fully recommend Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong to parents who are interested in having their children learn in an immersive and gregarious environment, where children are happy, and the teachers truly care.
If you are considering boarding school for your child in the future, Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong is an excellent school to prepare your child for this transition.