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Lantau International School: Lessons learnt during COVID-19

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Never has a back-to-school season been so eagerly anticipated by parents, teaching staff and students as it was in September. At Lantau International School (LIS), the staff – led by Principal James Lambert – have used what they learnt during the 2019/2020 school year closures to strengthen their programme across the board for both face-to-face
and distance learning.

“We continue to follow the advice from the Education Bureau,” says James. “When LIS students were able to return to school in May, we implemented temperature checks, health declaration forms and social distancing to protect everyone’s health. We are continuing with these measures, and we are ready to add more to keep the school open.”

With campuses in Pui O (upper primary), Tong Fuk (lower primary) and Cheung Sha (reception), LIS is well known as the ‘greenest school’ in Hong Kong, and in heading back to school, its students are looking forward to spending time together outdoors, as well as in the classroom. “Like all our campuses, the Pui O location provides ready access to a green environment and a beach where we often swim and take outdoor lessons,” says Ruby Bhatia, Head of Upper Primary. “We stress the importance of caring for nature with
our children.”

Photo by Duey Tam

In addition to its outdoorsy, eco-friendly focus, LIS is also known for its small class sizes – at the Pui O campus the teacher student ratio is 1:15 – which ensures that students get individualised attention in the classroom. James and Ruby agree that the small class sizes also helped when the school made the transition to distance learning. “Our small class size enabled teachers to communicate quickly to help any children who were having issues making the transition,” James explains. “All our campuses are in a slightly remote location but teachers were available at school during the closure and they were able to drop off/ collect work for children in Tung Chung and Discovery Bay. This face-to-face contact (safely of course) was so important because the children still felt connected to their teacher and class.”

Noting that some of the primary students, in particular, missed the social aspects of school, James says, “We scheduled time for PE, and encouraged regular breaks from the computer. We did not want the children solely online, so we produced printed work packs every week (Literacy, Numeracy etc.). The learning was supplemented with twice daily Zoom lessons with the class and the use of the Seesaw platform for communication and uploading work. Once we adopted Seesaw as the main platform and introduced live lessons, our online programme really developed.”

“The Seesaw platform gave the children a chance to make videos and present their work in a different format than they perhaps usually would,” adds Ruby. “Being out of the classroom allowed for more time for projects and some of the older children produced some incredible art and design work that we simply would not have had time for in class.”

The distance learning programme also provided a unique opportunity for LIS teachers and staff to reassess the curriculum for students returning to campus. Just as a routine schedule helped students cope with distance learning, LIS is also incorporating a more structured day for all year groups and providing more opportunities for students to ask questions and speak to teachers during classroom instruction.

Photo by Duey Tam

“I am sure there will be positive developments in education that will come from the COVID years,” concludes James. “But for now, I am excited to see the students back on campus once again.”

Lantau International School, www.lis.edu.hk

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