For much of the month of September, Cammie Bertram, President and Founder of Bertram Educational Consultants; and Audrey Ludemann, one of the area’s leading educational consultants for day and boarding schools serving children with a wide range of abilities and learning styles, travelled to Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai to meet with local educational professionals and ex-patriot families to discuss options in the United States for their children. Below are some of their observations from their visit.
- In contrast to the US, financial markets in Hong Kong appear healthy and jobs seem secure, and families who expected to return to the States after 2-5 years have found that the environment in HK has been lucrative, worthwhile and rewarding (reflected in both personal and professional lives), delaying their return. We heard stories of families who have unexpectedly stayed there 8 years, 13 years, and 22 years! And are still there!
- Families in Hong Kong were open, responsive and hungry for information offered in our presentations. We found that the morning presentation was very well attended, with many husbands able to take an hour or two off from work to be present. In particular, they appreciated information about the SSAT and the application process. We found these families to be particularly intelligent and discerning, while also uninformed about the depth of boarding schools and what schools could offer.
- We were surprised how few of the ex-patriot families had heard of junior boarding schools—and the invaluable opportunities these schools provide the middle school child. We had lots of inquiries about the junior boarding school experience from parents of 5th-7th graders after our presentations. We also had conversations with parents of older children who wished they had known about this concept of junior schools in order to better prepare their kids for the secondary school experience. [NB – you can learn more about this option by visiting www.jbsa.org]
- Many families knew a few predictable high-level schools but were less aware of the broader range of schools. The concept of 'fit' and the benefits of finding a school that is the right match for an individual student was new to a number of families.
- There are few options for kids with learning disabilities and US boarding schools provide a breadth of instruction and options not widely available in Hong Kong or Singapore.
- Interestingly, while families did not openly broach the subject of therapeutic placements, those particular brochures disappeared like hotcakes.
- FOCUS (Focus On Children's Understanding in Schools) is a Hong Kong based group supporting families of children with learning disabilities. We were able to meet with the founder who has recently moved to Singapore.
- Not directly related to our mission of connecting with ex-pat populations, but nevertheless interesting: In Shanghai, we learned of its initiative to build 35 million housing and office units between now and 2015 in order to encourage multi-nationals interested in buying or renting in Shanghai. Although the growth trajectories have been adjusted slightly downwards, growth is still predicted. We saw many new houses, some track housing and office buildings, but they were, at the time of our visit, sparsely populated. We found it interesting that such an aggressive building policy was in place in the face of the current worldwide economy.