The Early Years of AISHK

Editor's note: As part of AISHK's 20th anniversary celebration, excerpts from Under the Lion Rock: the AISHK Story by Ms Carolyn Bickerton will be included in Dhanara in the coming weeks.

Whole school photo, May 1995

The Early Years

People are constantly dreaming up new ideas. Leonardo Da Vinci imagined the helicopter and robot centuries before they became a reality: labelled 'crazy', in reality he was a visionary.

Fortunately, when Brian Davies (he moved to Hong Kong in 1986 and held various positions at Chinese International School and Canadian International School) conceived the idea of a school offering an Australian-based curriculum in Hong Kong, the community didn't have to wait centuries. And like Da Vinci, there were those who, while not labelling him crazy, did question the soundness of this idea.

Access to international education had long been available in Hong Kong. The ESF (established by The English Schools Foundation Ordinance No. 11 of 1967) system was well established and there were schools offering French (1964), German (1969), American (1986), Canadian (1991) and Singaporean (1991) curricula, but there was nothing catering to the needs of families from the Southern Hemisphere. The issue for Australian and New Zealand families was the recognition of the leaving qualifications they received from another curriculum and the delay in starting university due to the timing differences in school years.

Brian Davies, Founding Principal, 1994-1995

Brian was initially approached by a Hong Kong businessman about the possibility of setting up a 'for-profit' Australian school in either Hong Kong or China. Having long been of the view that a school based on Australian curriculum was needed in Hong Kong, Brian spent many of the early months of 1994 fine-tuning his plan for the establishment of a school offering an Australian education alternative to the community.

While finding students was a priority, critical to getting the school up and running were a site and curriculum. Brian hailed from New South Wales, and so naturally gravitated to something he knew, albeit a long time ago. In addition, New South Wales had a well established recognition process to enable overseas students to complete leaving qualifications. Contacts made over the years were called to help. Meena Blessing, based in Sydney, offered to assist with curriculum development and educational resources. The New South Wales Board of Studies was particularly helpful with advice and support for the concept. It was also recognised that the majority of Hong Kong people moving to Australia settled in and around Sydney. Brian was also developing contacts within various Hong Kong Government departments with a view to finding a home for this new school.

The beginning wasn't easy. Many questioned where the funding, students, teachers, campus, books and curriculum would come from to get this project up and running. After much consultation, it was agreed to proceed with the AISHK project, as a 'not-for-profit' school.

They didn't arrive on white horses, with armour and the full regalia, but they did come to the rescue. The Magnificent Seven, led by then Chair of AustCham, Philip Day, brought together a group of like-minded men and women to guide this project. They were Dr Jocelyn Chey (Australian Consul-General), Joseph Kwan (The Federation of Australian Alumni Associations Hong Kong), Tom Corkhill (Australian Association of Hong Kong) and Terence Ma (The Australian Chinese Association of Hong Kong) – the Founding Fathers! Complementing this group were others with like-minded enthusiasm who brought specialist expertise to the table, including Verner Bickley, Assistant Director of Education, Hong Kong Government, retired.

This Preparatory Committee was amazing. After all, if they could meet at 7am once a week for 'something that wasn't even there' (Tom Corkhill), what they would be able to achieve with something tangible was going to be wonderful. This group considered all aspects of the school – the short and long-term need for a school based on an Australian curriculum, the necessary approval process, the financial implications, temporary and permanent sites, curriculum, staffing, fundraising, school fees, buses, debentures, furniture, uniforms, and so on.

(to be continued in next week's Dhanara issue)