Living In Hong Kong Schools

How to avoid the classic international school ‘traps’

Recently relocated to Hong Kong? Or been here for a while but new to parenting? If you’re planning on sending your child to a Hong Kong international school, here are a few common expat “traps” and how to avoid them, courtesy of Ruth Benny and the team at Top Schools.

Avoid some of the common mistakes expats make when it comes to choosing an international school
Avoid some of the common mistakes expats make when it comes to choosing an international school

Applying Late

While schooling in Hong Kong is only mandatory from the age of six, most children here begin their formal education when they’re two or three years old. A normal “on-time” application is one that’s submitted at least a year ahead of the start of the international school year. Any application submitted less than a year in advance is usually considered late. To put it more simply: you should aim to apply when your child is two, three or four years of age to enter school when he or she is three, four or five respectively.

If you’re late to apply to a school you are interested in, all is not lost – you may still apply. However, you should carefully consider the chances of that application’s success. A less obvious trap is applying too early. This may result in an early assessment and, if successful, an early offer. If you haven’t yet had your child assessed at other schools you’re interested in, you’ll have fallen into the trap of paying down a deposit you may later forfeit. So, getting in early with an application isn’t always beneficial.

Applying to too many of the “wrong” schools

Top Schools is evangelical about saving parents money and stress. So, our suggestion is to make three applications or maybe four, but no more. According to a survey we carried out in 2016, a typical couple spends about HK$21,000 on applications and assessments. This is way too much! By focusing on “fit” and understanding the process of each of your shortlisted schools, you should receive one, two or three offers from three applications.

Advice from friends about an international school, although well-meaning, can be confusing
Advice from friends, although well-meaning, can be confusing

Believing the hype

Here’s the thing: each of your friends/neighbours/ colleagues has limited experience. Put all their experiences and advice together, and you end up way more confused than you were to start with! No, you don’t need to apply to ten schools when your child is born. Yes, your child will get into a good school. No, you do not need to buy a debenture. Many parents find all the “noise” deafening. So, we suggest a strategic, realistic and flexible approach that starts with you.

About the company

Top Schools guides parents through the ins and outs of planning for their children’s education, whether they’re newly arrived or long-term residents, with personalised and flexible recommendations. The Top Schools formula for finding the best fit is is to consider the following:

  • Your preferences as parents and priorities (if any)
  • Whether your child has special talents, interests or strengths and what their personality is like
  • Your preferred schools’ policies and procedures

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This article first appeared in the 2017 edition of Expat Living’s City Guide. Get a copy!

Check out our schools section for more advice and tips:

Bumper guide to international schools in Hong Kong

What’s the best school in Hong Kong?’