Finding the Right Academic Pathways for Your Child

【Interview with Sean Lai, Principal of ITS Tutorial School (Tsim Sha Tsui) & Director of Admissions (China & Hong Kong) of ITS Education Asia】

Given the wide variety of schools in Hong Kong, parents can be quite indecisive when it comes to planning an academic pathway for their children. Is the local school system or the international school system more appropriate for your child? Should you consider sending your child to overseas boarding schools? With its team of experienced professional teaching staff, ITS Education Asia provides top-notch educational consultancy and schools placement services to assist families in narrowing down the school choices. “Our approach is always student and family oriented. At ITS Education Asia, we assist families in defining the goals and aspirations for their children and provide expert guidance,” says Sean Lai, Principal of ITS Tutorial School (TST) & Director of Admissions (China & Hong Kong) of ITS Education Asia.

Sean joined ITS Education Asia in September 2017 as the Principal of ITS Tutorial School in Tsim Sha Tsui. In April this year, he also became the Director of Admissions, focusing on school placement consulting services in Hong Kong. “Personally I have gone through both the local and international streams in Hong Kong. I understand the difference between the school systems and am able to offer advice to parents and children on choosing and applying to schools.”

The consultancy and schools placement services at ITS Education Asia usually last for more than a year, and often up to two or three years, according to Sean. From providing guidance on identifying long-term goals to school selection and application, the team at ITS Education Asia ensures that each family’s goal is achieved and the chosen school meets their satisfaction. “With so many schools in Hong Kong, parents can easily get distracted and confused when it comes to decision-making around school choices for their children. Our role here is to narrow down the choices for parents based on their goals and aspirations,” says Sean. With two very different school systems - the local school and the international school systems - Sean points out that it is very important for parents to identify their family goal in the first place. “One question I always ask parents is do you foresee your family staying in Hong Kong for a long period of time? If you want your children to speak Cantonese fluently and have a job in Hong Kong in the future, the local school stream would be the pathway for your children.”

Sean believes that language requirements are a significant factor when parents decide between local and international schools. Most local schools require a good command of Cantonese, whilst international schools are English and Mandarin Chinese based. “Speaking from my experience, local schools also involve certain levels of discipline compared to international schools. Some parents may find this desirable because they want their children to have these traditional Chinese values.”

In addition to the parents’ points of view, the team at ITS Education Asia also factor in the students’ thoughts and opinions - especially for secondary school students. Sometimes there are parents who may be too aggressive about getting their children into their dream schools. They tend to plan everything for the children and neglect to consider the children’s own desires. “We see ourselves more as friends than teachers. We always encourage students to talk to us and tell us how they feel so that we can explain the situation to their parents,” says Sean. On the other hand, for younger students, the consultation is slightly different. “Since the younger students may not have any idea which school they would like or what exactly they want to do when they grow up, we find it out for them from an evaluation or assessment. We show parents their children’s strengths and potential in certain fields as the reference for them to consider when choosing the right school” Sean explains.

To find the right school for your child, early preparation is the key. Sean tells us that they always advise parents to prepare in advance and do background research on schools to understand the type of schooling and curriculum offered. “Different schools may have different age requirements and curriculums. It’s very important for parents to find out if their child is ready and suitable to apply to certain schools. It is also necessary for parents to understand the values and teaching methods of the school and see if these are the things they agree with,” says Sean.

“Hong Kong is such a small city. With all the information on the Internet, parents are easily swayed into thinking different options. Or they may hear rumors and comments about schools from their friends. Parents will then get nervous,” Sean continues. “I always have to tell parents that every child is different. Your child does not necessarily experience things the same way as other children. This is one of the most challenging situations I constantly deal with. I often advise parents to rethink their position. I remind them of the original goal they have for their child, and make sure they are not so easily affected by others.”


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