Career Advice Higher Learning

Adaptability is the crucial watchword

YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College is among a handful of schools in Hong Kong that offers both the DSE (Diploma of Secondary Education) and GCE (General Certificate of Education) curriculums.

Principal Dion Chen says the school is looking for teachers who have experience of teaching both curriculums. "We have openings for teachers in English, maths, English literature, geography, liberal studies and Spanish," he says. "We are looking for new talent to keep up with the school's curriculum expansion plan, and also to replace teachers who are lost through turnover. We have recently added new subjects to the curriculum and will need to employ more teachers. Spanish and GCE A-level physics are two of the subjects we have put on our curriculum recently."

With most international and direct-subsidy schools opting for the International Baccalaureate (IB), the GCE curriculum has become less popular and recruiting teachers with GCE experience is a challenge, Chen says. "Our school decided to offer GCE to provide another option for students, but it is not easy to find teachers with GCE experience. But we will try our best to find suitable candidates," he says.

Teachers in today's classrooms need to have more than just strong subject knowledge and should have abilities that extend outside the usual scope, Chen says. "Teachers who have experience as examiners in open exams and working as exam moderators will have an advantage," he says. "Other abilities that I look for are experience in leading extracurricular activities and experience of teaching students with special education needs."

While being equipped with professional knowledge is important, the right mentality is also vital to winning a job. "We want all teachers to share the same mission and vision as the school," Chen says. "When I meet candidates, I want to see that they have a caring heart and are devoted to helping young people."

Although the YMCA college is not an international school, it has a culturally diverse mix of students and teachers. Chen says teachers must therefore be able to embrace the school's cultural diversity. "Up to 70 per cent of the students are expatriates," he says. "Our teaching team is also very international - 40 per cent are expats and many of our local teachers are overseas-educated."

Working in such a culturally diverse school can sometimes be a challenge. "Besides strong subject knowledge, we want teachers to be able to communicate with students and parents from different cultures," Chen says. "English is a medium of instruction at the school, so colleagues need to have an excellent command of English. Besides teaching, all operations including school activities and announcements are in English."

To help teachers develop, the college offers various training and support initiatives. "For newcomers we have a buddy system, where the new teacher has two buddies - an expat and a local - to help them adapt to the school's culturally diverse working environment," Chen says. "There is also regular training for teachers to upgrade their knowledge."

At the German Swiss International School (GSIS), Annette Brandt-Dammann, the school's principal, says that a holistic approach is taken towards educating students.

"No longer do students just memorise facts and figures," she says. "They must pose questions, develop their own answers, analyse alternatives and share ideas. This explains why GSIS highly regards teachers who can apply an inquiry-based teaching style focused on developing students' understanding. We prefer candidates who demonstrate a belief about teaching that encompasses international perspectives as well as a sense of social responsibility."

The school is committed to developing teacher talent and leadership. "At the start of the year, the school offers a comprehensive induction programme to help new teachers adapt to our learning culture," Brandt-Dammann says. "They attend network meetings and we also offer personal-development opportunities."