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20201211 Mulan, The Orchid Among the Thorns




Branksome Hall Asia Early Decision I & II

Branksome Hall Asia is pleased to highlight some of the early data concerning Early Decision I & II acceptances that our Grade 12 US applicants have received to date. As a reminder, Early Decision (ED I & ED II) is a binding agreement between the applicant and the university. If the university accepts the applicant, the applicant must withdraw all applications to other universities and enroll at the accepting institution. The main reason why an applicant would utilize this strategy is that in most cases there is a higher acceptance percentage for the ED track at highly selective universities than in the regular decision (RD) process. Additionally, ED I & ED II track applicants will receive a decision much earlier in the application process (mid-December, late January).

This year, most highly selective universities have seen a dramatic 20-30% increase in overall applications submitted to top 100 universities in the US. This increase in number of applications places an added pressure on applicants as it is effectively lowering the overall acceptance rates.  Needless to say, we are extremely proud to share with you how well BHA students have done in this extremely difficult application period.

Branksome Hall Asia
ED1 & ED2 ED1
(18 applicants)
(13 applicants)
32.2% 33% 30.7%

To give these percentages meaning, by rough estimate, BHA applicants more than doubled the normal acceptance rate at highly selective universities for 2020-2021.

It should be noted that some EDII results are still pending. Please speak to your university counselor to find out more information on whether the Early Decision strategy is right for your daughter.


Branksome Hall Asia University Counselors

The Grade 10 Personal Project

The Personal Project is an independent study that students in Grade 10 that have taken on to pursue a personal topic of interest. Topics that girls at Branksome Hall Asia have chosen come from many categories (Global Contexts) such as environmental awareness, scientific endeavors, or artistic creations. Topics chosen this year include:

  • How can I help children understand the influence of COVID-19 on the world around us?

  • How can we deal with increasing populations in various parts of the world?

  • How can I build a sustainable and energy-efficient city?

  • How can I combat prejudice against those with disabilities?

  • How can I raise awareness of the historical significance of my hometown?

Our students have chosen topics that are of personal interest. Because students have much less supervision and direction than in a typical class, students develop the important skill of learning independently. These skills are not only related to time management, but also to emotional management, perseverance, resilience and self regulation, skills that are crucial in university and for the rest of their lives. For the Personal Project, the student plans what she would like to focus on in her independent study and requests approval from the school. Subsequently, our pupil creates a detailed plan of what she would like to research and what outcome she will produce at the conclusion of the experience.

As you might imagine, students are excited about choosing what they get to learn in school through this project. When the perfect topic for a particular student is selected, that student is energized and passionate to gain a deeper understanding of her chosen topic of interest.

On March 10th, Grade 10 students will present their projects to Grade 9 students. This is a great opportunity not only for Grade 10 students to share what they have learned, but for Grade 9 students to start to think about what project they would like to pursue when they are in Grade 10. According to the International Baccalaureate (IB), the Personal Project is the most important task of all of the Middle Years Program, more important than any individual task from Grade 6 through Grade 10.

Help me congratulate our Grade 10 students in the completion of their independent Personal Projects. The girls have worked hard, developed some incredible skills, and taken steps to make the world a better place through the completion of their Personal Project outcomes.


By Paula Swartz
MYP Coordinator

Jeju: Blood, Tears, Hope

I was born on Jeju Island, where mornings are met by the refreshing air that carries the songs of the Haenyo as they make their way to mudflat seashores while the evenings ferry the warm chatter of neighbors through opened windows that also welcome in the salty air. Jeju always gave me a sense of freedom, as expansive as the open seas that shaped this land of lava stone into a natural wonder, and today as also home to Branksome Hall, it became my port of horizonless intellectual journeys. With my increasing gratitude for my environment, I became interested in Jeju's history. Subsequently, I discovered a severe tragedy that had wrought this island in chaos, blood, and tears. With a growing passion for law and justice, I could not stay silent, especially in the absence of an official acknowledgment of events that can only be seen as a rejection of South Korea’s core democratic values. 

Referencing our vision to achieve equal human treatment by "molding an informed society,"  the THEMIS Academy in Branksome Hall Asia worked to decloak the Jeju 4.3 Incident, which has become a forgotten historical catastrophe. The seed of this Service CASE began with speaking at the Jeju 4.3 Speech Contest, but it matured with silent contemplations as we translated “제주 4.3을 묻는 너에게,” which is accepted as the most comprehensive and accurate historical recount of the Jeju 4.3 Incident. Other prominent books like “순이 삼촌" already had a bilingual English edition while this book only had Korean and French versions available, so we immediately grasped the opportunity to take action. “제주 4.3을 묻는 너에게" mainly underscores the testimonies of the massacre in Jeju and delves into stories of innocent children and women who were violated by the intractable and devastating events that took place during this era.

Our grit for finishing this project however was not an endless resource. The process of translating a book in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was riddled with countless and unforeseen difficulties. Concerned about losing progress, I conducted weekly online sessions to assign each member of our group about 2-3 pages to translate. Although grammatical  flaws abounded, with the aid of the PTA fund, we were able to successfully recruit a professional editor who could polish the book for readability and expression. Those who read this book especially enjoyed the poems which were translated with an artful balance of poeticism and literal accuracy. For example, the use of the word “flesh”  was expressed in terms of speaking about the ways that violation of the victims' humanity had physically touched their souls.

Things can’t always go perfectly. The publisher, possessing copyright, declined my proposal to share translated copies of the work with universities and institutions outside of Korea, unless I agreed to pay a significant sum to acquire these rights. The only action I can take now is to donate the book to school libraries and I am now doing this. However, I will also carry the historical evidence contained in the book to my university, and continue this fight against injustice.

History tends to paint a holistic view of the world that it has become today — storytelling a culture, visualizing the past, and constructing systems. Even though it can seem rather abstract when living in such a digital time, especially as we are separated by screens, peace is by far the most paramount virtue that must be achieved. All of us have the potential to prevent agonizing events by flexing the obligation to educate the masses since we are the inheritors, stewards, authors, and actors of society. People say world peace is unattainable, but deep inside my heart, I have a firm belief that at least if we engender a compulsory education for history even beyond the pages prescribed between the glossy covers of textbooks, we could create a fairer and safer society.

As a new Head Girl in Branksome Hall Asia, all I’ve wanted to say is to “take advantage of everything.” Taking advantage of the single-sex school, I have faith that we could initiate anything without hesitation and without any gender-based stereotyping. Branksome students can embrace their uncertainties but simultaneously overcome their limits to achieve more of their potential, eventually gaining the confidence to impact something larger than themselves. Yes, I’ve seen many people being afraid to stand out from the crowd. Changes will not come if we wait for someone else though. We, young women, who are aware of the injustice throughout history, near our homes and also far away, may yet be the changemakers that we've been waiting for. We can be the ones who are the instruments and history writers and initiate a cause despite the powers that refuse ethical reasoning. We have this strength because it has always been the youth that have been the forerunners to the greatest social revolutions. We must use our knowledge wisely as globally-minded and young leaders who are more than enough to be qualified as members of Branksome Hall Asia's powerful service community.


By Gayeon Koh (Grade 11)
THEMIS Academy

Lobbying for Change

The Grade 4 Students have just completed a ‘How We Organize Ourselves’ unit that focused on Government systems and the processes that people can follow in order to effect change. 

Students learned persuasive strategies while being exposed to various Governmental processes, and these two concepts were interwoven to challenge students with a final task: What process should you follow in order to lobby for change at Branksome Hall Asia?

Students chose a wide range of issues that they feel strongly about, from matters with the cafeteria, equipment used at recess breaks, access to school facilities, and increasing resources in our school library.

The process involved several steps that included:

  • Consideration of issues and assistance with planned actions,

  • The writing of a persuasive speech stating reasons, and supportive facts and examples.

  • A film presenting the student’s speech that involves feedback and revision

  • The presentation of a speech to a proposed lobbying target

Students presented to a range of faculty members and senior leaders including Dr. Lock, Ms. Frances, and the Facilities Manager, Mr. Hahn. It is so nice to report that there have already been steps taken by administration based on the students’ arguments and solutions that they provided. 

This was a tremendous learning experience for our students. Not only did they learn to recognize persuasive techniques and strategies but they also learned to apply these strategies in an authentic scenario and follow a thoughtful process to ensure your opinions are heard. 

Of most importance, students learned that they have the ability to impact change and they must take action in order to achieve their goals. 


By Mattew White
Grade 4 Teacher

Branksome Hall Asia Lunar Series

This Lunar New Year holiday saw Branksome Hall Asia’s Junior School welcome over 100 students to an exciting learning experience. The Lunar Series involved students in Senior Kindergarten to Grade 5 taking part in a five day, morning academic enrichment program that was aimed at helping students to develop their English language skills. Every morning was divided into three hour-long lessons, where one hour was focused on writing skills, another on reading skills, while the final lesson was devoted to an enrichment activity.

The students took part in a wide range of enrichment activities, that included cooking in the Junior School kitchen. They learned to follow recipes, as well as practice correct measurement, in order to create food items such as pancakes, rice paper rolls, and gingerbread cookies. Students also engaged in sports activities that focused on building communication skills with their peers in order to be a successful team. In the Makerspace, students participated in Lego challenges where they were invited to create designs according to grade-level specific instructions and specifications.

During reading lessons, students engaged in a host of different learning experiences to strengthen their decoding and comprehension skills. This included reading step-by-step directions so as to effectively engage in Thai boxing exercises.' They also conducted research by reading about how scientists have successfully designed skyscrapers and then implemented their understanding by attempting to construct their own tower buildings. Students applied this same experimentation principle to create catapults and data was collected to measure which design could throw pom poms the furthest distance. Students took what they had learned about structural design and scientific principles to conduct an ‘egg drop’ whereby they parachuted an egg from the third floor of the Upper Junior Pod to see which design would result in an intact egg. Our youngest students enjoyed taking part in read alouds and performing in dramatic role plays of the story they had shared.

Students practiced their writing skills by reflecting on what parts of their scientific experimentation had been effective and thinking about what changes they might make in the future to ensure a successful outcome. Some of the older students wrote fictional tales and then created graphic novels to depict their stories. Other students wrote menus and then practiced their conversational skills by role-playing interactions that might happen in restaurants. The younger students engaged in unscrambling mixed-up sentences and stories to have them make sense, and also competed in team spelling challenges.

Overall, the Lunar Series was a resounding success, with students actively involved in engaging learning experiences that promoted their use of English in a stimulating environment. We are grateful to the parents who supported the Lunar Series by enrolling their children.


By Suzanne Cormack
Lunar Series Coordinator
Grade 4 Teacher &  Grade 4 Grade Level Coordinator

Consolidating our Reputation on the World Stage

Having just been named as the International School of the Year, it is now clear, more than ever, that Branksome Hall Asia is a pre-eminent school on the world stage.

Our Strategy Team has been approached by leading education groups such as Pearson International, the World Education Services, and the Council of International Schools to present and share our expertise with them. As an educator, this is such a humbling honor and indicator that we have truly become an internationally-recognized learning community.

We do not plan, however, to sit back on our laurels. The good work of Branksome Hall Asia continues in house as we further develop our pedagogy and programs. Recently, we offered the ‘Lunar Series,’ an academic camp that took place over the Lunar New Year break. It was an exciting learning experience for our Junior School students and featured a variety of learning enrichment activities in a face-to face learning environment. Encouraged by the participation of our students and positive feedback, other learning programs and opportunities are in the planning stages.

Last week, the faculty were engaged in Professional Development training to advance one of this year’s school goals - improving student oracy in English. Our goal is to inspire our students by engaging them with learning experiences focused on advancing their spoken English skills within the context of the rigorous IB subject material.

Our Grade 12 girls have recently completed their DP Mock exams and we are so proud of them. Our teachers outlined examination expectations and provided revision sessions to support the girls to reach their potential. The students performed admirably and showed their resilience as young learners and leaders.

I am looking forward to sharing more about upcoming projects and initiatives with you over the coming months and are so happy that we can return to full student attendance on campus starting on Monday.


Dr. Cinde Lock
Principal, Branksome Hall Asia

The Interview – Part II – The IB Diploma and Branksome Hall Asia

Previously, we discussed how the university interview seems to be gaining more traction as a critical part of the application process for top ranked and direct entry universities. This article is an examination of how the IB program and Branksome Hall Asia help prepare our students for the Interview process.

One issue facing our students’ learning in their second language involves the fact that their written and academic English tends to outstrip their conversational and extemporaneous speaking ability. International students possess fluency, but typically lack flexibility in answering open-ended interview questions. The ability to draw interdisciplinary connections and express these clearly is a skill that helps students to shine during university interviews. The breadth provided by the IB program allows our students to have a more holistic view of the subject, which hence, allows them to think critically and respond laterally to open-ended interview questions. Top universities are looking for natural conversation and passion on a given topic or within a discipline. Students need to build fluidity in their dialogue and be able to engage openly in the conversation rather than approach it as a question/answer exchange. The IB program and the preparation students receive at Branksome Hall Asia help our students to build these skills.

The IB classroom features discussion and two-way communication between teacher and student. Every member of the class is encouraged to speak up and voice their opinion. This style of teaching produces students who are capable of original thought and who are confident in  expressing their perspectives. This student-centered teaching approach also produces students who are strong listeners and who are willing to be informed by others. However, this integrated learning process is only effective if our Branksome Hall Asia students participate in the back and forth dialogue that characterizes the IB classroom.

Oracy is the focus for Branksome Hall Asia this year. By placing such a high emphasis on our students gaining oral fluency throughout the school, students are placed, long-term, in a better position to be successful in life. A major additional benefit of this school-wide focus is that our students will be better prepared for the interview process.

Specific core programs such as the Extended Essay, the Theory of Knowledge course and CASE/CAS allow experiential opportunities to Branksome Hall Asia students to challenge their knowledge formation, extend their passion, and create formal and informal opportunities to develop flexible cognition.

Our next interview article will feature specific tips and BHA resources that are available to students and parents to help with the interview process.


By Branksome Hall Asia University Counselors