Every year, the ESF Chairman’s Awards celebrate the best and the brightest of the graduating classes of the ESF secondary schools.
A record number of students picked up awards at the ceremony at Island School this year, thanks in large part to a best-ever showing in International Baccalaureate scores. Fully 25 per cent of students achieved 40 points or more on the IBs, compared to a global average of 5.1 per cent. Additionally, 15 of the 146 students worldwide who received the “perfect” IB score of 45 were from ESF schools.
Young Post spoke to Abraham Shek, Chairman of the ESF Board of Governors, to find out how the students performed so well.
“I attribute our success to a number of factors,” said Shek.
“Our study environment, which is not a matter of mechanical, rote-learning aimed at examinations, like it is at many schools; our students are trained for creativity, analysis and their commitment to themselves, their family and their society. These values are why we have the Chairman’s awards – to encourage students.”
Andrea Li, 18, won the Award for Creativity. The Sha Tin College student has worked as Head of Design for a school magazine and is headed to Central Saint Martins school in London to study graphic design later this year.
When asked why she deserved to be celebrated, Andrea was nervous, saying: “I guess it’s because I worked hard. I don’t know, though ... everyone worked really hard.”
Andrea has an impressive academic record, but this award was especially encouraging as it recognised her talent in the arts, her eye for design, and her creativity and savvy.
“It’s important to celebrate achievements outside of pure academia, and I think this is an attitude that needs to change all over Hong Kong,” she said.
Another Sha Tin College student, Anson Miu, not only got 44 points on his IB, but also had the best performance on the bilingual diploma, which earned him the Carlson Tong Award.
Anson also won the Chairman’s Award, and an award for Commitment and Contribution to Service. But despite taking home three trophies, he showed modesty at the event, saying: “I owe this success to my teachers, for always giving me the opportunity to go beyond the syllabus; my friends, for keeping me sane throughout the stressful periods of school; and my family, for encouraging and supporting me wholeheartedly since the beginning.”
Not all awardees were chosen for achieving exemplary IB scores. South Island School student Nick Avitabile did not take the traditional IB pathway, but pursued the BTEC instead, a course based on occupational skills. He won his award for his exceptional performance in the "Applied learning programme".
Nick is hoping to join Cathay Pacific’s cadet pilot programme – saying that this is the goal he’s always been working towards.
He received his private pilot license last year, and says: “I got my first simulator when I was 12. I’ve been hooked on that game ever since.”
Douglas Tsui was another winner. Although the West Island student had an outstanding IB score, all his focus is on his future.
He says: “I aspire to be an architect, to be able to create a new type of living [environments] for people all around the globe, for them to live harmoniously with nature and the man-made.” He will set forth on this ambitious plan this autumn, when he begins his studies in architecture at the University of Washington, in the US.
Some amazing stories came out of this year’s award ceremony. But despite the huge number of recipients, they were, of course, a minority of the nearly 1,000 students in the graduating class of 2016. But Shek says not receiving an award is no reason not to work hard.
“We can’t dish out awards to everybody,” he said. “The message of the Chairman’s Awards is to encourage students to outshine themselves.”