Teaching and Learning



  • Freshman Transition Seminar
  • Sophomore Career Exploration Seminar
  • Junior Seminar
  • Senior Transitions Seminar

The counseling program includes individual attention and group activities to promote academic achievement, facilitate post-secondary planning, and foster personal growth and interpersonal relationships.

Through coordination and consultation the professional school counselors serve to support all members of the HKIS High School community in the following ways:

  • School counselors promote personal, interpersonal, emotional, academic and career development for all students through proactive classroom programs and other services. In addition, a variety of parent meetings are sponsored and hosted by the counseling department.
  • School counselors meet yearly with students individually and in small groups to review, guide, and support them through the academic and college planning process.
  • In consultation with school leadership and department heads, counselors review student school records and help students plan their course selections each year. Counselors recommend that students are enrolled in a balanced schedule that is appropriately rigorous, challenging and also supportive of post-secondary educational goals.
  • Counselors collaborate regularly with teachers, administrators and parents to discuss student needs and to provide comprehensive support for their growth and development.
  • The school-counseling program equips students to develop competencies in decision-making, career planning, interpersonal relationships, personal responsibility and other skills essential for being a productive citizen.
  • Counselors provide information and support to students and families about academic programming and community resources. They provide prevention, intervention and crisis response services to students and families. When necessary, counselors refer students and families to outside resources.
  • Counselors collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to identify and address students’ needs.

Humanities (English/Social Studies/Religion)

We believe that Humanities Education:

Inspires students and teachers in a thoughtful, collaborative exploration of the human experience. We value the question as much as the answer, the process as much as the product, and connections as much as the content. We commit to an environment where empathetic, socially conscious learners act in local, national, spiritual and global communities.

We believe that engaged Humanities learners:

  • Practice self-reflection, contemplation, and curiosity as habits of mind.
  • Engage with multiple perspectives.
  • Build knowledge and effectively communicate ideas.
  • Work together and learn from one another.
  • Pursue innovation and take risks.

We agree that Humanities Education happens best when learning:

  • Is relevant and authentic.
  • Is intellectually challenging and emotionally engaging.
  • Promotes student choice, ownership, and self-efficacy.
  • Involves both teachers and students collaboratively in exploration and discovery.
  • Inspires wonder and hope.

Learning Support

HKIS provides Learning Support services for students who present mild learning challenges. At the high school level, this support is available through the Learning Center, Room 717. The Learning Center team (two Learning Specialist positions and one assistant) develops an eligible student’s Learning Plan and implements all required accommodations.


HKIS offers a broad range of classes to help students develop in the “Chinese Culture” Student Learning Result. HKIS recognizes that its students represent a diverse range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds along a continuum of proficiency and has determined that a two-track (or “stream”) approach – with distinct curricula – is appropriate to accommodate the vast majority of its learners. These streams have been named Mandarin as a Second Language (MSL) and Mandarin for Near-Native Speakers (MNN). Despite the advanced bilingualism of many of our students, HKIS does not expect age-peer native-language competency in its MNN track learners, nor does it attempt to model its curriculum on that of local schools.

For all its language learners, HKIS wishes to provide appropriate linguistic, informational, and socio-cultural knowledge to promote language and culture understanding as a vital skill for an increasingly globally connected world. We wish also for students to gain the foundation for an understanding and appreciation of China and its place in their lives and in the world.

For its MSL track learners, HKIS strives to develop in its students Mandarin oral competence as a tool for meeting age-appropriate functional and communicative needs and to begin to introduce them to important cultural references that define the society that surrounds them. Where Mandarin differs so greatly from the majority native language of our students – English – HKIS believes that students also require a grasp of language organization, which lies at the heart of all communication. HKIS also wishes to engender in its students the confidence and expectation that proficient mastery of Mandarin is by all means within every student’s grasp.

For its MNN track learners, HKIS stresses the continued development of oral expressive abilities as the foundation of advanced second language proficiency in Mandarin. A further emphasis is placed on the progressive mastery of the forms and purposes of effective writing, the strategies of the successful reader, and an expanding awareness of Chinese culture, history, and social institutions that will support their understanding of the Chinese speaking world and their appreciation of Chinese heritage.

Placement of a student in one of the two streams is made chiefly on the basis of linguistic criteria related to how knowledge of Mandarin has been acquired. Students who are proficient speakers of any Chinese language or who have significant linguistic exposure in Mandarin in childhood have a much richer inventory of linguistic intuitions on which to draw and are by nature much faster learners than those who are learning Mandarin as a wholly “foreign” language. In all cases, however, placement is made and reexamined after a varietyof considerations, including the extent of linguistic reinforcement in the home, the presence of learning support in other areas, long-term success in the MNN program, or perceived imbalances in language skills.

Placement of students in Mandarin classes is based solely on performance on a placement test or the recommendation of an HKIS High School Mandarin teacher.


Mathematics is a dynamic discipline that prepares students for a world that requires logical thinking and quantitative analysis. Learning is about understanding, and the Mathematics Department engages students and teachers in a shared, inquiry-based learning experience. This process of learning develops confidence, understanding, imaginative thinking, persistence, resilience and collaboration.

Mathematics is content and process; therefore, students should experience both. The content and methods of teaching mathematics at HKIS reflect the Common Core Standards, developing upon essential conceptual understandings and procedures. Mathematics provides powerful tools for mindful processing of information. Through courses in the Mathematics Department, students acquire quantitative reasoning skills designed to prepare them for further study of mathematics and related fields. They are also equipped to make informed decisions and interpret the world intelligently whatever their future endeavors. Modeling, reasoning, communication, connections, and representation are now the cornerstones of mathematics. While traditional methods may still have a place in the classroom, the primary emphasis and responsibility for learning has shifted away from the teacher and toward the student. Independent and collaborative problem- solving receives greater attention than in the past to enhance student understanding and learning. In addition, the use of graphing calculators has opened up new possibilities for solving problems as well as investigating the underlying principles of mathematics.

Throughout the mathematics courses, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and Common Core standards are used on a daily basis in selecting content, planning for learning opportunities, and designing assessments. Extensive use of graphing calculators requires students to own a TI-NSPIRE CAS.

Modern Languages – French & Spanish

We believe that World Language Education:

Foreign language acquisition encourages students to respect and understand other cultures as well as heightens the awareness of one’s own culture and language. Teaching students about culture promotes increased sensitivity and compassion, whilst seeking the value of differing perspectives. Foreign language acquisition equips students to participate more actively in the global community and to be more adaptable in an increasingly interconnected world.

The aim for the Romance Language Program is to develop communicatively competent and culturally enriched students. Our program places a differentiated focus on the three modes of communication (interpersonal, interpretive and presentational).

We believe that engaged World Language learners:

  • Work collaboratively as well as independently.
  • Listen to and respect multiple perspectives.
  • Take risks and demonstrate resilience.
  • Demonstrate creative problem solving skills.
  • As often as possible, use an ever increasing amount of the target language in student-student, student-teacher interactions.
  • Displays and promotes intercultural understanding and respect of other cultures.
  • Use the target language to exchange ideas in a variety of contexts.
  • Go beyond the classroom to seek opportunities in their local community to use their linguistic and cultural competencies.

We agree that World Language Education happens best when:

  • Communication is at the heart of language instruction.
  • Teachers foster an atmosphere of trust, care and safety.
  • Students share responsibility for the atmosphere and learning experiences; are proactive and take ownership for their own learning.
  • Learning is inquiry-based, collaborative and interactive.
  • Teachers integrate authentic resources and technology to help students develop cultural and linguistic competency.
  • Units are topic focused and skill based; grammar and vocabulary provide the tools to communicate and understand.

Most competitive universities require or recommend from three to four years of the same modern language at the high school level. Less competitive universities may recommend two or three years of the same modern language at the high school level.

Placement is based on an interview and/or placement test. Students need a solid foundation at early levels for success at higher levels. All courses are sequential.

Performing Arts

The inclusion of the performing arts as an essential component of the curriculum promotes the HKIS Student Learning Results. Each discipline of the arts offers specialized knowledge and skills, set within a broader context of guided creativity and aesthetic awareness. The study of the fine arts fosters a deeper understanding of self, empathy for others, global understanding, and spiritual awareness.

Physical Education

Mission and Aim

Beginning with the Class of 2021, a full credit Wellness Block will be offered at HKIS. In their Wellness Block, students will develop their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being through a Physical Education, Counseling Seminar, and Spiritual Exploration course.

Physical education at HKIS is an integral part of the educational process and contributes to the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual development of every student. The mission of physical education at HKIS is the development of autonomous, lifelong learners who readily participate in meaningful physical activity on a regular basis. The aim of physical education at HKIS is lifelong participation. Further, the aim is to foster the development of positive attitudes toward a lifetime commitment to physical activity and well-being – through lessons focusing on understanding games, skill development and participation. The graduation requirement is 1/2 credit of Physical Education for each year in attendance at HKIS.

Program Goals

  1. Concept-based skill development
    • To educate students as to the structure of games and movement skills whereby the tactical understanding and skill execution can be learned, transferred and perfected.
    • To target each student’s base skill level through differential teaching strategies to enable individual skill progression.
    • To enable learners to participate successfully in a physical activity even though it may not have been specifically included in the program.
  2. Development of positive attitudes. These attitudes will focus on:
    • Physical activity.
    • Fitness.
    • Self-concept.
    • Relationships with others.
    • Social behavior.
    • Personal and group safety.
  3. A lifestyle oriented to overall well-being:
    • To provide each student with the opportunity to develop an optimal level of fitness. u To educate and excite students about pursuing active, healthy lifestyles.
    • To assist students in the development of attitudes, knowledge and skills necessary to initiate and maintain appropriate fitness programs.
    • To promote self-motivated learning as related to fitness and well-being.
    • To give students the opportunity to live what they have learned through participation in physical education.
    • To educate and excite students to improve their diet and well-being.
Visit the Physical Education blog


The goal of the science department is to inspire and prepare scientifically literate students who will have the skills to synthesize, analyze and evaluate in our information-driven society. Courses are designed to foster inquiry and creativity through laboratory and research activities where students are expected to collaborate effectively. Courses aspire to facilitate an understanding of the ways that science, technology, environment, society and culture influence each other. Students are provided with tools to make decisions regarding responsible use of earth’s resources.

HKIS science courses are divided into specific disciplines that meet students’ interests, needs and ability levels. The Physical Science course offers the essential fundamental background for all scientific disciplines offered and should be taken by the majority of students.

Students who have taken Physical Science or who have the appropriate skill level and the recommendation of their current science teacher may register for Chemistry Honors or Biology Honors. Students may choose to take physics, chemistry or biology in any order, provided they meet the prerequisites. Introductory level courses may be taken before any of the Advanced Placement (AP) courses in a particular discipline. A minimum of two credits of science is required during the student’s high school career. One of these must be a full year of biology, and the other must be a full year of physical science, chemistry or physics. It is recommended to take more than two credits in science.

Registration for all science courses requires the final approval of the student’s current science teacher or the Science Department Head.

Visual Art, Design and Technology

Visual Arts & Design

The inclusion of the arts as an essential component of the curriculum promotes the HKIS student learning results. Each discipline of the arts offers specialized knowledge and skills, set within a broader context of guided creativity and aesthetic awareness. The study of the arts fosters a deeper understanding of self, empathy for others, global understanding and spiritual awareness.

Design and Technology

Our goals at HKIS are to make technology accessible to all students, to provide learning opportunities throughout the entire curriculum, to use a wide-range of information and communication tools, and to develop information literacy skills. We expect to see all students graduate from HKIS with a good understanding of design thinking. Students should be able to use appropriate technologies to gather information strategically and critically, to learn and create new knowledge with this information and to communicate that knowledge successfully to various audiences.

To give students the opportunity to become proficient users of technology and creators of media content, HKIS provides a range of design and technology classes. Although credits from Design and Technology courses are not a graduation requirement, any well-rounded student should very strongly consider taking at least one technology-focused course while at HKIS.

Advanced Placement Program

HKIS's High School AP Philosophy

As with all courses in the high school, the primary goal we have for our students is to provide opportunities that stimulate self-motivated learning, respect and responsibility and collaboration. Advanced Placement (AP) courses extend these opportunities by providing rigorous, college-level courses for students with a high level of motivation and a deep passion for learning. We believe that any student who is motivated to take on this level of challenge should have the opportunity to take AP courses providing course prerequisites and/or teacher recommendations have been met. Please click here to download our full AP Philosophy document for more information.

HKIS's AP Policies
  • Students in Grade 10 are counseled to take a maximum of one AP credit while students in Grades 11 and 12 may take up to three (3) AP credits in an academic year. Any exceptions would come through a counselor to the Associate Principal for Teaching & Learning.
  • All students enrolled in an AP course must take the associated AP Exam in May.
  • A student may take an AP Exam even if not enrolled in the course at HKIS.
  • A student who receives a “1” on an AP Exam will be required to meet with their counselor, the Associate Principal for Teaching & Learning and possibly the AP instructor to be considered for enrolment in any other AP course.
Why should I take AP?
  • More than 90% of 4-year colleges and universities in the US grant advanced placement, credit, or both for successful scores on AP exams, and 85% of selective institutions report that a student's AP experience favourably impacts admissions decisions.
  • AP is recognized by more than 3,600 universities worldwide.
  • More than 600 universities in over 55 countries outside the US recognise AP.
The Advanced Placement International Diploma (APID)*

The APID is a globally recognized certificate for students with an international outlook. The APID challenges a student to display exceptional achievement on AP Exams across several disciplines.

*Source: The College Board, AP: A World Class Experience. 2009


The AP designation for an HKIS course indicates that an external exam at the end of the year will be taken.

AP Pass Rates at HKIS

63% of HKIS High School Students took 1,291 exams covering 27 subjects in May 2018. All students enrolled in an AP course are required to sit for the exam.

96% of our students received 3, 4 or 5 on one or more exams
*Hong Kong Pass Rate: 92%; Global, 61%.

HKIS students' mean score = 4.16

*Hong Kong 3.99; Global 2.89.

Overview 2018 AP Results




Global Online Academy

HKIS is a member of the Global Online Academy (GOA), a consortium of independent schools around the world with the goal of offering online courses that are as intellectually rigorous and engaging as their on-campus courses. GOA is dedicated to utilizing approaches to learning aligned with current research in best practice, including collaboration, networking, and online skill development. Teachers for GOA courses come from the member schools, and undergo training in order to adapt their practice to this new environment.

Membership in the Global Online Academy gives HKIS students increased opportunity to pursue their passions, or to explore potential areas of interest. More than 40 courses are offered through GOA. Students who successfully enroll and complete these courses earn credit which will be reported on the HKIS transcript, and HKIS academic policies will apply to the courses taken online.

Further information about GOA can be found at: globalonlineacademy.org

High School Slideshow