Choosing the right school for your child is a big responsibility for a parent. We all want our kids to do well academically, but we also want them to be in an environment where they are happy and flourish in other areas like sport, right? When you move to a new city as an expat, making that choice becomes even more overwhelming when you are faced with a myriad of Hong Kong schools and an unfamiliar system.
Hong Kong school admissions expert Ruth Benny of Top Schools knows this and guides parents through the ins and outs of planning for their children’s education, whether they’re newly arrived or long-term residents. Here she answers the five most common questions she gets asked.
What type of school can I choose? We have six types of schools in Hong Kong. A lot of this information is very technical, so to make it easy, I ask parents what language they prefer as the school’s main teaching language. If that language is English, you can focus on schools running only an international curriculum. These are the expensive, unsubsidised international and private schools.
When should my child start school? While school is not mandatory until the age of six, the majority of children in Hong Kong begin their formal education at two or three. Most young children will benefit from some preschool where they’ll learn a bit of discipline and to play and socialise with others, which is good preparation for primary school. Where primary schools have affiliated kindergartens, we suggest entering as early as possible. Primary schools in Hong Kong take children aged three, four or five. So, depending on your preferred primary school, your child may spend one or two years in preschool. While all local, government-subsidised primary schooling starts at six years, international schools start earlier. You could, in theory, choose when you’d prefer your child to start school, but if you miss the entry point, there will be few remaining spaces.
When should I start planning for school? As early as possible! We see quite a few pregnant ladies at our events. At a very small number of schools, an early application is essential. If you’d like your child to start a “full time” pre-nursery programme at the age of two, applications will be submitted in the autumn of the year your child is one, so you should be prepared for that.
What curriculum should I choose? Primary schools offer IBPYP, English National Curriculum, International Primary Curriculum, US based curriculum, Montessori and a few others. We advise families to choose a primary school based on a number of factors; curriculum may be one of them, but the main curricula are all similar. The differences will become much more apparent in secondary or middle school, and parents need not worry about it in primary too much.
What’s the best school in Hong Kong? Forget “best” – look for “best fit”!
This article first appeared in the 2016/17 edition of Expat Living‘s CityGuide. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.
Check out our schools section for more advice and tips:
Bumper guide to international schools in Hong Kong