Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS) has been recognised as one of the most innovative schools in Asia since its foundation 27 years ago. With usable land being scarce in Hong Kong, architects were tasked with the challenge of building this spectacular 14-storey campus on a small and steep Hong Kong hillside overlooking the South China Sea. That innovative thinking continues today as staff are encouraged to push the boundaries of education to provide future-ready learning for students from pre-school to Grade 12.
“We have always been an innovative school,” says Head of School David Baird. “We were one of the first Apple Distinguished Schools in Asia and one of the first schools in Hong Kong to roll out a laptop programme. When the school was established in 1991, founding members were committed to offering a future-ready education for all students. Today, CDNIS is known as a highly innovative school and continues to develop programmes and partnerships with innovative institutions, companies and organisations around the world.”
In 2017, in acknowledgment of the need to transform education to meet students’ needs in “the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the school launched Project Innovate, a whole-school initiative to embrace future-ready learning. Adopting a model developed by the World Economic Forum, the school has established a clear framework based upon core skills, character building, and the 21st century competencies of creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. This ensures students are not only ready for the future, but are able to draw upon their skills and attributes to solve the world’s problems.
In the classroom, there is an emphasis on hands-on and experiential learning. Students apply design thinking to identify real-world problems and work collaboratively to solve those problems using a range of traditional tools and the latest technology – from hammers and saws to laser cutters and 3D printers – to prototype solutions. Projects are varied and involve students of all ages. In two such initiatives, Upper School students are using Arduino sensors on the school’s recycling bins to monitor the amount of recycling taking place, while 5 and 6-year olds have designed and constructed an outdoor mini-maker space to be used by the school’s youngest learners.
“Using design-thinking principles, these young students planned an amazing space, which they then built alongside our maintenance team,” says Lower School Principal Dr Helen Kelly. “They took ownership of their learning and have developed a host of new skills, beyond what we would normally expect to see in children of this age.”
As Tim Kaiser, the Upper School Principal, points out, this innovative philosophy feeds across all subjects and areas of the school. “Our Chinese programme is highly innovative in terms of breaking from traditional textbook delivery to using apps rather than print resources,” he says. “We are also using innovation in assessments, including using apps so students can track their own progress, which is less formalised but more impactful.”
The school is also committed to embracing the opportunities presented by Hong Kong’s location in the Pearl Delta Economic Zone, which is vying to become the new Silicon Valley. “There are amazingly innovative things happening in this part of the world,” says Kaiser, “and we are actively seeking every opportunity to connect with this dynamism and energy.”