University Guidance – How does your school measure up?
With the global aspirations of students in Hong Kong’s schools, how do you know that your child is being well-prepared for the transition from secondary to higher education? What questions should you be asking?
Who delivers the guidance at your school? How many counsellors are there in relation to the size of the student body? Do they have other responsibilities or are they specialists in ‘college counselling’? How experienced and well-qualified are they? Have they made the effort to attend overseas conferences/campuses and build a network of contacts?
Do they understand the workings of the school, its curriculum and the student/parent experience? (not a given)
Are they sufficiently rewarded to attract quality applicants? (some are definitely not)
Is there one? Or does it just seem to be administration and support at the application stage?
In which year does it start and what does it consist of in terms of group guidance, individual counselling and parent involvement? In particular, is the student guided on how to research courses and colleges effectively and critically, in the penultimate year of high school? #
Is this programme communicated to you clearly, so that you can support and encourage your child effectively.
#in my experience, the biggest deficiency
Schools here have different mixes of university destinations and this can even change by year group. How well and how evenly are the main destinations of your school dealt with, in terms of both research and application (incl. Hong Kong itself)? In this respect, are the counsellors specialists (in one country) or generalists?
Online Resources – are the best sites for research identified and are students guided in how to use these and college websites critically?
Printed Resources – these still play a part. Are they well-chosen and accessible?
Human Resources – does the school encourage/attract university visitors and/or arrange a Higher Education Fair (tricky for schools with small cohorts)? Does the school operate an open-door policy or does it only invite elite institutions?
Many schools buy into platforms such as Bridge U, UniFrog, Cialfo etc. These platforms include features such as application support for the UK, USA and other destinations, college searches and careers resources. Do you know which one, if any, your school uses and is it:
Depended upon to the exclusion of good counselling?
Does your school encourage open-minded research and application? Does it celebrate non-elite achievement, such as that of students pursuing vocational routes or does it simply publish a list of Oxbridge, Russell Group and Ivy League ‘placements’? Does its approach seem to be ‘top-down’ (from college entry) or bottom-up, focusing first (and much earlier) on the student and his/her strengths and aspirations?
How do you know?
You’re already cursing me for suggesting you know all sorts of things that are just not clear to you or you feel you can’t be expected to know. That begs the question of how well, and by what means, the school communicates what it is doing to its parents.
Can the university guidance service be quantified or assessed in the same way as a school’s academics and management by external inspectorates?
Outside the USA and the UK (where it is looked at in the more general field of ‘careers’), this sort of inspection doesn’t really exist and where bodies such as the IBO or the Council of International Schools look at it as part of an overall accreditation exercise, it is pretty cursory in my experience. My former employer, the ESF did carry out a fairly thorough review of this service in its own schools about four years ago, but I am not aware of anything as thorough in other schools here.
The Bottom Line
Some schools here do an excellent job in this respect but others do poorly. How well do you know what guidance is provided? Are you happy to pay your fees and put blind faith in the school to do a good job or do you wish to be proactive in supporting your child’s journey in collaboration with the school? Do you feel that you may need the further support of an independent consultant like myself?
In any event, this has to be a question worth asking.