09 Oct, 2020
10 : 00
Yew Chung and Yew Wah subscribe to a philosophy of holistic education where students are encouraged to look upon academic achievement as a valuable challenge towards self-improvement. As every person has his own unique starting point, individual effort and progress is a fundamental assessment criterion. High marks are just the end result.
At the beginning of the new semester, we interviewed nine Yew Chung and Yew Wah students who achieved excellent results last year. They are like eager young climbers who will not dally atop the mountain to admire the scenery because there are always higher mountains to climb.
A Gap Year for Self-Development
McDonald Seonaid Alyssa Faith from YCIS Shanghai and Isabella Yao from YCIS Hong Kong both achieved a perfect IB score and chose the road to Medicine with admission to the University of Melbourne and the University of Hong Kong respectively. This summer, Seonaid participated in an internship provided by YCIS Shanghai, to work at a hospital.
For Isabella, her “seed of dreams” was planted during the school’s annual Seeds of Hope trip.
On the trip to the Philippines, Isabella assisted with daily check-ups at a local pregnancy centre. She described her time there as a “magical moment”. She later returned to the centre for a month-long medical placement, which was also part of her IB Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project. By choosing Medicine, she wants to use her own knowledge to create more of these “magical moments”.
Christy Yuen from YCIS Hong Kong also achieved a perfect IB score of 45 points, gaining top marks in both English and Chinese, which shows she has a high native-speaking level in both languages. To our surprise, she chose to take a gap year to further develop her interests by taking more online courses.
Initially, Christy intended to study Computer Science or the Physical Sciences at university. With her strong self-learning skills, she taught herself coding by using the advanced programming language, Python. However, a long enforced stint at home on account of social distancing, brought about a shift in interests. She is now considering studying Visual Arts, a medium she is interested in to tell stories. Or she might opt for East Asian Studies. She hopes to study a range of diverse subjects in the future.
For Shu Min Tan from YCIS Shanghai, the celebration was delayed and somewhat unexpected. After reassessment, her International Baccalaureate score was changed from 44 to a perfect 45 points. After 14 years at YCIS Shanghai, she will continue her journey at New York University, Abu Dhabi.
To Master English, Friends Can Help
Before her IB studies, Isabella never studied at an international school and rarely used English in daily life, so adjusting to the school’s immersive English language environment was not without its challenges. Thankfully, her friendship with another IB Pathway student, a native English speaker, helped her gain more fluency in the language over time.
Japanese student Harune Mori faced the same difficulty. She joined YCIS Beijing in the second semester of Year 10, her first exposure to an international school. “I mastered the general knowledge of English, like core vocabulary and basic grammar rules. But learning English is one thing and using English to learn is another,” says Harune.
Despite four A*s in the IGCSE exams, Harune said there was room for improvement in Global Perspectives and Economics as her standard of English limited her performance in these two subjects. Therefore, she set a goal for the new semester: to participate in class and raise questions more actively. “I do not have special talents. Continuous effort is the motivation of my improvement. Studying hard does not make me suffer as it is my weapon,” she says.
Questioning is also a good way to learn. Isabella always asks questions. Before joining YCIS, she was weak at Maths and Chemistry but the school’s IB Pathway programme boosted her confidence considerably. She is extremely grateful for help provided by teachers in these two subjects. “I was not the smartest or quickest student in class. I had to ask questions over and over again but they always taught with passion and patience. That is the major reason why I came to love these two subjects.”
Perfection Is in the Small Details
Korean student Kim Bo Kyung from YCIS Qingdao received a perfect score in IGCSE Chinese. She takes pride in the fact that she made no mistakes in her four essays. “It greatly boosted my confidence and made me believe in my Chinese standard,” Bo Kyung says.
She studied at Chinese local schools from a young age and acquired a good knowledge of the language. Her focus is on small detail to avoid making mistakes. “Like the writing format, speaking tone and speed… although these are very small elements, they determine whether my work is outstanding or perfect,” she adds.
Kim Dong Hyun, another Korean student from YCIS Qingdao, joked that if procrastination was a subject, he would surely get an A*. But he has a unique trick up his sleeve. “If you really understand a concept, you only need the context of the textbook. I’m confident about theme-based learning, which helps me save much time,” he says.
Nicole Wu from YWIES Guangzhou is good at taking notes. She jots down the points in class and organises them during revision. She has researched memory patterns and shown that with experience and some revision in the morning the best results can be achieved. She has even made a “mistake book” for her favourite subject Maths to analyse the causes of her errors.
Coco Ye from YWIES Shanghai Lingang thinks it is difficult to copy others. Finding the effective learning route that suits you is the key. Says Coco, “During the pandemic, many classmates shared that they had more than 900 minutes of study time a day. I really can’t do that….” Despite this she achieved an A grade in four AS Level subjects and applied for the Education Programme at University College London and the University of Hong Kong. She points out, “Studying till late at night or doing lots of exercises will slow you down and eventually stop you from moving forward.”
The mistake book is also Coco’s secret weapon. She said, “Don’t just look at the increase or decrease in marks. Pay attention to the causes of mistakes.” In a recent Physics exam, she received one mark less than before. She thought at first that her weak answering points had lost her marks but, after analysis, she realised the problem was due to careless mistakes. She is determined to be more careful in subsequent exams.
Coco always remembers Teacher Judy’s saying: “Making meaningful mistakes is good. It is a reminder.”
When Teaching Becomes Learning
A firm believer in “effective learning”, Nicole Wu from YWIES Guangzhou received an A grade in AS Level Maths, Economics and Biology. Tutoring is another secret of hers: “Teaching others is actually the most effective way of learning. In the preparation and discussion, we can better remember the knowledge points.”
“Think of learning as an interesting thing. Balance your life and attitude. Don’t blindly chase high marks. Set a goal suitable for you instead,” says Nicole. She is good at using charts in Economics to offer examples: steady straight lines are better than curves that show a sudden rise. “Knowledge is accumulated over a long time. Don’t rely on the last minute revision before exams. And applying knowledge to your daily life is more important than achieving high marks.”
Nicole takes pride in the fact that she took the IPQ programme (same standard as A Level) and received the highest A* grade. The topic was the influence of modernisation on the environment of Chinese cities and the quality of life for residents. Her conclusion is that modernisation can help improve the environment.
Nicole conducted research on the urbanisation of Guangzhou and Shenzhen. She had a placement at Guangzhou Nansha New Area Urban Planning Bureau and interviewed academicians and researchers. She also went to Xishuangbanna to discuss the issue of “carbon sinks” (objects or land features that absorb more carbon than they release) with the local forestry bureau.
“With a clear research goal I wrote my report smoothly and with a sense of excitement.” Nicole has high praise for this learning opportunity that was at a university standard. She has decided environment and sustainable development is her research direction in the future. “When you do research on the things you are really interested in, you will know what ‘passion’ means.”