There’s a lot of conflicting information about how to find the best school in Hong Kong. Ruth Benny, from independent admissions experts Top Schools, says you should focus on what’s the best fit for your child, not what someone tells you is the best school, when choosing where to send your child. “If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked ‘What’s the best school in Hong Kong?’,” she adds. “There is no such thing! We don’t have any rankings and the best school for your colleague’s best friend’s kid is quite possibly the absolute worst school for your kid.”
Ruth says finding a school is not a linear process. “Many times, we are asked for a step-by-step plan or a checklist. Wouldn’t that be nice? When choosing a school, some aspects are related to your family generally, others to your child. Some are factors you can control and others are completely out of your control.”
Too often parents start with the school, rather than their own preferences, she says. “Parents research schools they’ve heard about from friends, relatives or colleagues. Parents study the curriculum it follows, what it costs, where it is, whether it has a swimming pool and how many Ivy League or OxBridge placements it has – which is a big mistake. Parents are often judging a school on misinformation, other parents’ experiences (who have children who are different from yours) or the school’s own PR.
Top Schools recommends applying the “six Ps” when choosing a school: Preferences, Priorities, Proficiency, Personality, Procedures and Policy.
“We suggest you start with you,” says Ruth. “Who are you? Who is your child? Your preferences. In an ideal world, what does your ideal school look like, feel like, smell like? If your child is older, you can start with your child.”
Consider your own educational background, your expectations in terms of academic programme, plus your budget, location, and so on. Be careful not to restrict options too much at the initial stage. “Parents often have strong opinions about curriculum, which, in our opinion, is not the most important factor, particularly for a primary school student,” Ruth says.
If you have priorities, you will enjoy advantage at certain schools. If you graduated from a school in Hong Kong, alumni priority is strong. If you have your child enrolled in the school’s affiliated kindergarten, you will also enjoy some priority. Priority is one consideration; it’s not the most important one.
Your Child’s Proficiency & Personality
Almost every school will meet your child before accepting him or her, Ruth says. They are assessing:
• Language proficiency: English and/or Chinese
• Emotional/social development
• Motor skills – gross/fine
Procedures & Policy
Each school differs in terms of procedures and policies. “We suggest coming to this last,” Ruth says. “Understand a school’s main intake year, how they assign priorities and what they are looking for in a child.”
See more in our Schools section:
Bumper guide to international schools in Hong Kong
‘What’s the best school in Hong Kong?’
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.