To be, or not to be

To be, or not to be

Many students worry over the question of whether to choose higher education in Hong Kong or abroad

November 04, 2012
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October 07, 2012
Teenagers often face tough decisions. One, in particular, involves making a choice about their future secondary education - should they study here or abroad?

A foreign education has always been the preferred choice for many parents as well as students. They believe a foreign education offers better job prospects; the record levels of enrolment at Hong Kong's many international schools are a sign of this. They may be located in the city, but they incorporate a foreign curriculum.

Many students choose to go abroad and enroll in overseas boarding schools. The United States and Britain are the top destinations, although Canada and Australia are also popular choices.

Yet there are many factors to consider. First, the cost, which is staggering. Basic tuition fees with boarding costs can range from about HK$233,200 to HK$423,600 for nationally accredited schools and those belonging to the Association of Boarding Schools, says Hillary Tsui, a manager at the Institute of International Education - Hong Kong (IIE).

Location is another important factor. Family members that live in the same city, or same country, can provide assistance when you're hundreds of miles away from your parents. This was one of the factors that led Jeannie Nam to Emma Willard School, in New York, where she studied for three years.

Many students select a certain boarding school with the intention of staying on in the city for higher education. "I decided to go to boarding school in the US because I wanted to attend university there," says Nam, who studies at New York University. "[It also] helps me adjust to living in the US and provides more of the tests and courses specifically required for US colleges."

Apart from the advantage of being immersed in an English-speaking environment, boarding schools also help students to develop independence, says Nam.

"One of the main benefits of studying abroad is learning how to live on your own. Character-building is a main pro to attending boarding school. Living at school also means you are much more involved, for example, in sports, extra-curricular activities and work - all of which tend to take up more of your time than at a regular school."

Yet independence comes at a price. The fears of leaving home and living abroad alongside strangers are always a big worry. But more often than not, these fears disappear once students become acquainted with their new environment.

Kellina Gannon, 15, was worried before she left to study at Malvern St James, an all-girls boarding and day school in Worcestershire, in Britain. But these concerns disappeared soon after she started there.

She says "making friends, liking the school and doing well in classes" were her biggest fears before starting at the school in 2009. "Almost as soon as I got there [though], the girls were so friendly, showing me around and showing me the ropes," she says.

No matter which route a student decides to take - here or abroad - there's no substitute for hard work. Yet with the proper mindset, and an adequate learning environment - which most Hong Kong schools offer - students can excel.

Whether a student should take up local education or go abroad, there's really no right or wrong decision.

Just try not to let your appetite for American homemade apple pie, or English fish and chips, be the determining factor.

For those who want the experience of a foreign education but don't want the commitment, many schools offer summer or short-term courses.

Information is available at the IIE - Hong Kong and the British Council Hong Kong.

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