YMCA Christian College (YHKCC) is a Lantau secondary school that was founded in 2003 on strong Christian principles and continues to prioritise the values of education, kindness and self-improvement. Located amid beautiful scenery, near Tung Chung MTR station, its serene setting is reflected in a positive, happy atmosphere among both teachers and students.
Its five core values are based on the Bible, encouraging pupils to build a community that cares, act with integrity, be responsible, respect themselves and others and to serve one another in love. Principal Dion Chen believes these lessons play an important part in every child’s development, Christian or otherwise.
Although students are expected to take part in Christian religious activities, YHKCC welcomes students of all religions and backgrounds. “We set up this school for everybody, as long as they meet our academic requirements, regardless of religion, race or gender,” Chen says.
“We never set a quota for the number of international students, Christians and non-Christians. We are a multicultural, multi-faith school and believe a positive experience here could result in alumni joining the Christian faith later in life.” International students from more than 40 countries make up more than 70 per cent of the YHKCC cohort and about 38 per cent of teachers are expats from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Japan and India.
Classes are taught in English and the campus is stunning – “not beautiful but functional”, according to Chen – with plenty of greenery and surrounded by unspoiled hillsides. Outstanding sports facilities include an outdoor artificial turf pitch, multi-purpose sports field, a four-lane 100-metre running track and a long-jump sandpit.
YHKCC is not an independent international school, however, but part of the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS), receiving funding from the Education Bureau as well as private funding. Its large international student population is largely a result of its location in Tung Chung, which is popular with international parents looking for the right environment for their children.
The school caters to its diverse intake by offering IGCSEs and British A-levels as well as the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), giving students the opportunity to choose their own academic path. The teacher to student ratio is 1:10, putting it among the upper echelons of the city’s international schools, and its results have been steadily improving, with a large majority of students passing in most subjects at IGCSE and A-level.
Students are expected to reach a minimum academic requirement – a target that continually moves higher as pupils progress – and Chen is keen to highlight the school’s extracurricular activities. “We really want our children to be developed all-rounders, not just focused on one area,” he says. “We believe students have their own talents; some are good at studying, some at sports. We try to help students discover their talent and develop it. We want to give them the opportunity to take outside interests, such as music, visual or performing arts, to the highest level.”
The school has a sophisticated pastoral care system. With pupils coming from such diverse backgrounds, Chen sees this as an essential part of the school. Up to Form 4, each classroom has two teachers and each Council of the Islands Scout District. year group has two heads of year – male and female, local and international. Pupils are encouraged to be sympathetic to other cultures through mixed-culture classes, and the school does not stream according to ability, in order to avoid a system that highlights students’ strengths and weaknesses.
YHKCC’s caring culture extends to the local community. Chen leads by example, working with NGOs in his spare time including the Hong Kong Association of Youth Development, Lions Club Diamond Hong Kong, Hong Kong Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council and the Executive Council of the Islands Scout District.
The school gave local low-income families free tickets to its annual funfair, which in 2013 attracted 3,500 visitors, and included performances, games and a bouncy castle. Students are also encouraged to try to improve people’s lives beyond their immediate environment, with annual community service trips to Thailand, Taiwan, Cambodia and China. “Everytime we complete a programme, the reflections of the students are very touching, often they say they couldn’t have imagined what they saw,” Chen says. While operating a school as diverse as YHKCC isn’t easy, Chen and his team welcome the challenge.
“As long as there are challenges in front of me I do my best to overcome them, enjoying the overwhelming sense of achievement that comes with it.” This generosity of spirit and determination to meet difficulties head on is what YHKCC is all about.