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A Well-earned October Break

October, 2005
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Jolie and Sheena are classmates as well as close friends at the International School of Beijing (ISB). To most people it would seem odd that they were on the campus of the Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS-BJ), when most schools had closed their doors for the National Day Holiday.

In fact, they were both candidates of the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) exam, which took place at the Arts School of YCIS-BJ.

Both playing the violin, Jolie was taking Grade 4 violin while Sheena was aiming for Grade 2. Jolie’s mother Doris also took part in the exam, taking Grade 6 piano.

“We both enjoyed the exam very much as we have been preparing for quite some time, we are confident that we passed,” said Julie Ho Doris after the exam.

Sheena was nervous before but quite relieved and happy afterwards as it is her first time taking the exam.

“People should not be scared by the word “exam”, because the examiners are all friendly and the exam is treated like a performance, during which the examiners look more for the positives,” said Warren Lee, Music Director of Yew Chung Education Foundation.

YCIS-BJ is now the official centre for expatriate candidates in Beijing, and it was Warren who introduced the ABRSM Exam here in 2001.

The ABRSM exam is recognized in over 92 countries worldwide, and has been running in Hong Kong for over 50 years. Currently it examines over 600,000 candidates annually.

“I approached them to serve our own students when I first joined Yew Chung in year 2000,” said Warren “ And the exam started with only 30 candidates in 2001.”

But since then the number has steadily increased. In 2004, 123 candidates - 94 in practical examinations and 29 in theory examination - took the ABRSM exam. This year the number of candidates for practical examinations was 153 with candidates for theory examinations at 69.

“We have had students switch to our school simply because we are holding the ABRSM,” Warren added.

There are good reasons behind the exam’s rapid rise in popularity.

Technically the international schools will set a goal for their students learning instruments to get such assessment. For example, all the Yew Chung International Schools place very strong emphasis on music education, as it is part of the school philosophy. In a very special following program of the school, students from 4-years- old will learn the violin in additional classes by music specialists. By 6 to 7 years old, they all know how to play instruments.

“We put a lot of our resources into music. Currently one of the music teachers from our Beijing school is undertaking the CT ABRSM Teaching Certificate Program in Hong Kong this year,” Warren said.

The ABRSM exam also helps students get into UK universities as Grade 6-8 Passes will earn you UCAS Points. If students plan to study abroad, especially in the UK, this exam will assist their application. Students who pass diploma exams with distinctions may earn scholarships to study at one of Royal Schools of Music in the United Kingdom.

“If you get a very good result for your diploma, the Board will keep that record,” Warren said “In fact, I entered the Royal Academy of Music with an ABRSM full scholarship at the age of 17 based on the good result of my ABRSM exam taken when I was 14 years old,” Warren recalled.

It is worthy of doing also because it is very standard and serious event. After the exam all the scores and mark sheets will go back to the London headquarter and be rechecked by the moderators or the chief examiner. The examiners will go through training and every few years.

IMG_1174 “They [ABRSM] are very serious about maintaining an international standard,” explained Warren. “Suppose you take grade 5 and you get 130 marks here, those points have the same value whether you are in England or Africa. And all candidates will get a certificate all the way from England.”

The ABRSM exam takes place in the first week of October, which means the Arts School doesn’t have time to take a break throughout the year.

As students of the Yew Chung International School also use the facility, the Arts School opens only after school and on weekends.

There are some local teachers, for example Professor Sun Hong from the China Conservatory and her graduate students, as well as a couple of expatriate teachers from renowned music schools. The offered curriculum is based on the syllabus of the exam. At present the courses include theory and preparations with mock exams or master classes in preparation for the ABRSM Exam.

“It is worth noting that we have all the latest examination materials at the centre, including all the books required to prepare for the exam, which need updating every two to three years,” added Warren.

Sheena, Jolie and Doris’s exams are now over, they will find out their results in a months time. In the meantime they can get back to normality after a well earned National Day holiday break.

Notice: There will be a free Introductory Seminar about the ABRSM exam conducted by two Reginal Consultants from the Associate Board next January. If you have any enquiries about the examinations or the application procedures, please contact the school at: 010 8583-3731 ext. 37.

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