Best of British

Best of British

Boarding at schools overseas helps students mature

Matt Man - one of thousands of Hong Kong students to have studied at boarding schools abroad - believes the experience had a positive influence on his education.

He went to primary school at Britain's St John's Beaumont, in Old Windsor, Berkshire, and later completed his secondary education at Epsom College, a co-educational independent school in Surrey.

"At boarding school in England I got to use English when talking to my friends and teachers every day, so my English skills have improved a lot," says Matthew, 19, who is in his second year of degree studies at University College London.

"Class sizes were smaller than in Hong Kong schools, and we had a closer relationship with our teachers at boarding school," he says. "The teaching methods were very practical, too: we conducted a lot of experiments in science lessons, and went on a lot of field trips [for] geography projects. I found this kind of teaching more motivating."

In the 2011-2012 school year, 6,064 primary and secondary students from Hong Kong were at boarding schools in Britain.

Going to boarding schools abroad has grown increasingly popular, as it helps students broaden their minds, says Hilary Moriarty, the national director of Britain's Boarding Schools' Association.

"Boarding helps you learn to get on with others in a group and know there are issues apart from yours. This is a bonus that will benefit you for the rest of your life and make you feel at home in the world."

Moriarty was in Hong Kong to speak about British boarding schools to parents at a seminar held by the British Council Hong Kong.

She says Britain is Hong Kong students' top boarding-school choice, ahead of the United States, Canada and Australia, for several reasons.

"The biggest advantage of British boarding schools is that we have the 'national minimum standard'. All our boarding schools have regular inspections with published reports."

Since 2002, Britain's Department for Education has set standards to ensure the quality of services and facilities for boarders up to 18 years old. "If any school does poorly on the scale, it will have to fix it."

Britain's rich history and culture are also important reasons for boarding at its schools, she says.

"Students can visit the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and watch his plays at London's Globe Theatre, on the site where many of his plays were performed.

"Students with a talent for music can enjoy all kinds of musicals at Britain's theatres. And many of our Olympic athletes were educated at Britain's boarding schools.

"It's magical to attend a school with a strong historical and cultural background. It's a huge part of the school, the air you breathe - you'll carry the memories all your life."

Britain has 479 boarding schools so it can be difficult to choose one, Moriarty says. "Start by searching the school's website. You'll not only see what the school's like, but also hear about it ...

"It's useful to visit, too," she says. "Choosing a boarding school is like picking a home: you've got to walk in the door and feel if you like it."

For boarding to be a positive experience, it's important students find the right school. "If you're an introvert, you may need to go to smaller school to feel comfortable. If you're interested in music, there are schools" that focus on that speciality.

"All boarders are different. Some hate their first school," Moriarity admits, "but love the second. The key is to feel completely at home.

"The welfare of students is what matters to us: whether you feel safe and respected, are well looked after, and have enough free time to breathe and reflect.

"You don't succeed if you're not happy. So happiness has to be in the equation when you consider a boarding school."

You might also like:

- Whether for fun or practical reasons, the experience of learning a new language can give you greater insight about life and offer new opportunities.

- Besides the usual candidates of the US, Britain and Australia, several other countries offer locals a unique overseas education

- If you want a proper four-year undergraduate experience and a well-recognised degree title that is easy on your parent's wallet, you could look at mainland universities



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