Education technology company EtonX, a subsidiary of prestigious British boarding school Eton College, is launching its first online summer school program in Hong Kong later this month, in conjunction with local educational institution Trumptech.
The series of two week-long programs - with all four courses focused on soft skills - are targeted at youngsters aged 14 to 20.
The courses will cost US$299 (HK$2,332) each, offering instruction in areas of verbal communication for the importance of effective conversation, public speaking to help overcome one's own nerves, critical thinking, and making an impact, referring to how to influence people effectively and to advance one's own argument.
"While academic subjects' knowledge is important, there're so many other skills - the ability to stand up and confidently give a presentation, or just think critically," said Percy Harrison, chief executive of Eton Online Ventures.
"These skills are the ones which employers seek in this age, making a key difference between candidates who might otherwise have similar level of academic achievement."
Harrison said the design of the curriculum involves course directors from Eton College to advise on both syllabus and content. Students are expected to take those classes through the custom-built real-time virtual platform, which teachers have control over, with a maximum of eight participants from around the globe to take part in one class.
Li Kam-yau, a secondary three student from Kwun Tong Government Secondary School, who took part in its pilot program for a writing skills course, said she has learned how to logically deliver structured arguments in her essays.
"Teachers from the daily school, comparatively speaking, stresses on teaching how to apply vocabulary and sentence patterns to an article," she said. "But the course provides me skills in thinking, which enables me to systematically finish the write-up by following those ways to help brainstorm for different ideas."
Li added: "A bonus benefit is in my presentation skills: Hong Kong students are often shy about expressing themselves in English, but the way the class was conducted online, and in a small-group setting, encouraged us to be more confident in speaking out."
EtonX head of business development, Ben Hanneford-Smith, said the course tutors are qualified teachers who have received training from the college, along with experience delivering online education.
Apart from hardware preparations of a computer and internet access, he emphasized the English ability of a student is a crucial criterion, as all classes will be conducted in English.
Students are thus expected to possess a good level of English, equivalent to an upper intermediate level of B2 of Common European Framework of Reference, or a score of 5.5 in the public English examination IELTS. Hanneford-Smith said participants would likely be assigned to their own age group.
Each course has 18 hours of study time over two weeks, or about two hours per day. The courses are available between July 22 and August 30.
There will be assessments in different areas, ranging from attendance and quality of contribution, to tests for grading assignments so as to award students with a pass, merit or distinction, as well as an EtonX certificate of completion at the end.