Parkview International Pre-School (PIPS) in Tai Tam educates students from one to six years, beginning with Playgroup (accompanied, one to two years). PIPS’s head teacher Mary Scarborough joins Kate Davies for a chat about her story and her views on education.
How long have you been in education?
I think it might be 37 years.
What triggered your desire to teach?
I was doing psychology and I thought I was going to be an educational psychologist. I had to train as a teacher and then work for two years in a school and I loved it so much that I never left.
What’s your Hong Kong history?
I came here from Bangkok. I worked in London for 15 years and then I went to Bangkok and the idea was to travel really, but at the end of five years there I was ready to leave and I didn’t know where to go, so I just applied for a job with ESF in Hong Kong. I was the Early Years coordinator at Glenealy for nine years. The interview day was the first time I’d ever been to Hong Kong.
What was your favourite subject in school?
And most memorable thing a teacher ever said to you?
I remember after I’d given a teacher a job, I said to her, ‘The reason I’ve given it to you is because you’re very passionate about teaching young children’, and she said that she was very pleased I’d noticed it because nobody else had. That was something really memorable about that particular teacher.
What makes a good teacher?
Passion is what I look for in teachers. I think you’ve got to have it to work with young children. I can spot them, the ones with true passion. They’ve got to want to do the best job possible. Whatever that takes. They’ve got to be able to do research, do their own studying, further their study, and be the sort of person that looks to find a better way to do something all the time.
What’s the toughest part of your day?
Often things crop up that you’re not expecting to deal with. You might come in and think, ‘I’m going to get on with planning the staff meeting today’, but something will pop up. It could be a child having an accident, it could be a parent with a problem… suddenly I have to drop everything and do something else I wasn’t expecting, but I’m used to it now. All in a day’s work.
What are your school’s greatest strengths?
I think the way that the curriculum works. The teachers are committed to this way of teaching. The children are enthusiastic, motivated and the teachers capture their enthusiasm. I think that’s what happens here and that’s really noticeable. People who come here say that.
What are the benefits of students studying and growing up in Hong Kong?
They’re exposed to lots of cultures in international schools. They are exposed to different people, views, perspectives. So, this all relates to the IB mission which is that we hope in the future that children will become globally aware. That the world will be peaceful ultimately.
What are your views on homework?
A lot of the homework I have seen is of little value I would say. It has to mean something. We do have some homework, usually something that children need to find out with their parents at home. Something that they are going to be able to bring back to school to share with others. Something that will make the parents part of the learning too. That, rather than copying words which can be a bit of a waste of time.
What are your views on technology?
It’s something that you have to work with rather than against. We use it well in this school. Some teachers are very proficient at how they use it. It can be used as a tool for enquiry.
Your views on extra-curricular tuition?
It can be too much, children do need some time when they can choose what they want to do rather than having to go to activities. Children need to make choices about what they are interested in. We run extra curricular activities in both schools. There is a variety of things available here that they might chose to do, but I don’t think it should be over used. There is a tendency to overuse it. Children need breathing space, and their own time to develop into people.
Tell us a secret about yourself…
I’m a film buff! Not many people know that, but if people observed my behaviour in Hong Kong they’d notice it.