Hong Kong’s schooling system is recognized worldwide as a top-performing academic hub! A city where families can really narrow down their goals and motivations for their kids’ education, and pick a school that will stimulate and accompany the little ones as they grow. This guide will give you a deeper understanding of the steps to follow to select and apply to schools in Hong Kong. Find out how the system works, the curriculums at hand, costs, paperwork required, and much, much more!
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Looking for some Hong Kong 'education 101?' Here's a quick hint on the types of schools in town! Essentially, Hong Kong has 2 types of schools: government-run, and private schools. The latter are also sub-divided between ESF Schools (English Schools Foundation), International Schools, Private Independent Schools (PIS), and Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) institutions.
Why is it important to get the lingo right? Because each type of school has a different application process, structure, and fees. Also, not all PIS and DSS schools teach in English! Plus, some schools require students to be Hong Kong Permanent Residents. If this applies to you, and your little one is fluent in Cantonese, then you'll have more choices!
This helpful guide will take you through the most popular curriculums to choose from in Hong Kong! Long story short, you have nearly 10 different curriculums being taught around town, all of them with different approaches and styles. If you already have clarity and know what you are after for your kiddie's education, then find out more about what's trending now!
Before you keep surfing the wave of options and possibilities, let's take a quick dive into the average tuition fees! It's key to keep costs top of mind before you fall in love with any institution. Signing up for a school that will put your family under financial distress it's a no-no!
According to this study, the average you can expect at a private international school is HKD 177,591 per kid, per year -at the top-end. The private schools with the lowest tuition fees cost between HKD 72,000 - HKD 119,000. ESF School fees for 2021/2022 are Primary schools (Years 1 to 6) at HK$115,800, Secondary schools (Years 7 to 11) at HK$133,800, and Secondary schools (Years 12 to 13) at HK$140,700.
Keen to join the local school system? There are about 600 primary and 500 public secondary schools around Hong Kong. These offer an alternative to the long waiting lists and high fees of international schools. Even though a wide range of ex-pat families opt for private international education, the local system can also be a great choice!
When looking for a school, you need to consider that your little ones will spend many hours of their lives learning and commingling with their new pals. So think about what ticks your child's interest and personal situation, and put it all together on a checklist.
Are you just relocating from overseas and know you'll be staying in Hong Kong for a few short years? Is your kid into sports, music, or stem activities? Again, what's your budget? Where are you living? If you haven't moved yet, start researching before the big move! Which kind of curriculum do you prefer? What are the school's academic merits?
Each type of school has a similar - but different- approach to education. Let your core values and sense of practicality guide your choices!
As you begin to research and narrow down your fave schools, you'll also start figuring out the nuts and bolts of the application process.
In a nutshell:
International schools - Applications for new students are open throughout the year - not at all schools, though, so always double-check! Many of these schools have long waiting lists, so better to apply early on. It's very common for children to take on an entrance exam focused on English and maths. Many schools will require a debenture, which can, in some cases, give some priority. Finally, you can apply to any international school as these are not zoned by residency.
ESF schools - You can only apply to the ones selected and zoned for your residency area. The application must be put through during the Central Application period - Sept 1 to 30. They still accept applications outside this period, but the chances of getting a spot vary! Applications are online and are followed by an interview and assessment. Parents can choose up to 3 schools. For more details, visit the ESF schools' online applications site.
Local schools - The application process is done through the Primary One Admission system - for primary schools- and the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) system. The secondary school, your child, will be able to attend will depend on his or her performance during primary school. In this case, it's possible to get an array of schools within your home area or apply to just 1 school in or out of your neighborhood!
Now that you've done some extensive research, it's time to actually go visit some schools! Many schools have open days, offer tours around the installations, or host personalized meetings. You can schedule an appointment by filling an online form, emailing, or just calling the admissions department. Once you are there, be assertive! Check out the installations, general feel of the school, how friendly the staff is, how involved the kids are. Ask if they have support groups for parents relocating from overseas -these can be a godsend! With COVID days, all schools have shifted to virtual tour options so be sure to check in with them if you are unable to visit the school. Click here for the Little Steps Asia guide to Open Days And Tours In Hong Kong 2021/2022.
Here's a roundup of the documents you may need to keep handy to apply -or get into the admission process- to most schools in Hong Kong. Again, always double-check each particular institution, as these may not all require the exact same paperwork!
So...by by now, you and your child are almost ready to make a choice! Of course, all these different stages of gathering information, scheduling meetings and more are intertwined, and that's okay! Maybe your first gut feeling was to choose an international school, but none of them really caters to your budget and goals. You may find a public school that offers support for kids that are not yet fluent in Cantonese, and go for it! Many scenarios can unfold, but try to keep it as simple as possible. Keep your school checklist handy. Make sure you've gathered all the paperwork. Note the pros and cons. Budget for the whole year...and bring it all together!
Have 2 or 3 alternatives at hand. This will avoid the overwhelm of not meeting certain requirements for a school, or having to get into a long waiting list. Once you are ready to go, fill in the online form -if applicable-, follow the instructions carefully, and submit all the required documents! Once you are done, take note of the date so you can follow up with the school and check the status of your submission. Now it's a matter of being patient and staying on top of things -all at once! Good luck parents, see you with the kiddies at school!
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