Hong Kong Schools
Broadly, Hong Kong schools and further educational establishments in Hong Kong fall into four basic categories:
- Government schools, aided schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools. These are subsidized, receive grants or are fully-funded BUT even when some are classed as EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) your child will need to acquire a working knowledge of Cantonese, which isn’t a bad thing if you see your children staying here long-term. See HK Education Department New Arrivals Information Sheet & Prospectus “Education for for Non Chinese Speaking Children” and fully research the whole website. Of the 83 direct subsidy schools under the category “Education services for non-Chinese-speaking students” on The Education Bureau’s website, 24 will admit non Cantonese speakers. There will be an interview or test to gain admission. Good local schools can have extremely competitive!
- English Schools Foundation schools, set up as an affordable English ‘liberal’ system of education catering to a high volume of students. Total ESF student numbers are circa 17,000. Students will need to be very competent in English to gain admission.
- International Hong Kong Schools, offering a curriculum and language mediums appropriate to the relevant country. Additionally, many will have an EMI stream.
- Local Universities.
Hong Kong Kindergartens are mostly independent, although there are four operated by the ESF. Parents whose children have the right of abode in Hong Kong can pay for part of their Kindergarten fees with a voucher from the government under the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS). In 2013, the amount of subsidy under the PEVS is HK$16,800.
For most expats, the ESF and International Hong Kong schools are the most relevant for Primary and Secondary schooling, so this will be the focus of the following information.The schools generally follow the UK pattern, with an extended Summer break over the Summer. The new school year commences after the Summer break. Exceptions are schools such as the Australian International School, which starts the school year in January.
All schools observe Hong Kong General Holidays and Hong Kong weather warnings, e.g. Amber/Red/Black rainstorms, Typhoon signal 3 and up. Refer to individual school websites for their specific policies.
Unfortunately, special needs students are not particularly well catered for in Hong Kong. Parents with special needs children may be required to pay for a dedicated special needs assistant in addition to other fees.
Based on the 2012 Pisa results, local students enjoy a world class Hong Kong education system.
Hong Kong Schools – The English Schools Foundation
The ESF was established by the Hong Kong Government in 1967. ESF currently operates five secondary schools, nine primary schools and a school for students with special educational needs. Two “all through” Private Independent Schools (no subvention) and four kindergartens are operated by ESF’s affiliated company, ESF Educational Services Limited (ESL), which also offers English language classes and sports activities.
ESF – An Opinion
ESF was founded under the Colonial administration to provide an accessible and affordable ‘liberal’ English Medium of Instruction (EMI) to the children of expatriate professionals. Since the handover of Hong Kong to China the need for an accessible EMI has not gone away, although the profile of the students requiring it has changed. No longer largely the children of British civil servants and the employees of British companies, the parents of today’s students are likely to be professionals drawn from any part of the globe and are much more likely to be Hong Kong Permanent Residents. The parents may be attracted to the ESF by the style of education, or the lower cost compared to International schools. They will still be fluent in English, although it may not be their mother tongue.
The Legislative Council ‘Legco’ froze the ESF subsidy after the Handover to China and withdrew it to new students in 2013. Thus, the children of Hong Kong Permanent Residents choosing an ESF EMI are treated less favorably than those local children able to access Government schools, aided schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools.
With inflation-busting fee increases, ESF is becoming increasingly expensive. Expat middle-managers with children may soon find the cost of education makes coming to, or staying in, Hong Kong unfeasible.
Being less able to attract professionals with global experience is already damaging the competitiveness of Hong Kong. This trend is likely to accelerate as fees rise ahead of inflation.
In my opinion, Legco policy does not adequately address accessible and affordable EMI as a strategic resource necessary to retain Hong Kong’s position as “Asia’s Global City”.
There are 13,000 students in ESF Hong Kong schools and 4,000 in the PIS and the kindergartens. The schools are more ‘International’ than ‘English’ in some respects as the students are drawn from over 50 different nationalities and at post-16, the majority of students follow the IB Diploma program not the UK GCSE/IGCSE. How well do ESF IB students perform relative to other HK education providers and globally? Click here to find out.
The ESF received a small subvention (per-student subsidy) from Hong Kong Government until 2013, when it was discontinued for new students entering the system. Existing students will continue to receive the subvention throughout their ESF education, unless they attend one of the ESF Private Independent Hong Kong schools, which are more expensive due to the lack of any subsidy.
ESF has traditionally taught the National Curriculum of England and Wales, adapted to the Hong Kong context. Their Hong Kong Schools are now moving to an overtly enquiry-based, investigative style of teaching and learning. Accordingly, primary schools are moving to the International Baccalaureate Organisation’s (IBO) Primary Years Program (PYP).
At secondary level, ESF continues with the adapted National Curriculum of England and Wales in Years 7 to 9, and then take GCSE and IGCSE courses. Renaissance and Discovery Colleges offer the IBO’s Middle Years Programme (MYP).
Gaining admission to Hong Kong schools
Students applying for enrollment to an ESF Hong Kong school are placed on a waiting list. This requires a copy of the parents Hong Kong ID cards making it impossible to apply before you are committed to Hong Kong.
Priority for an admissions interview/assessment is as follows:
1. Are Corporate Nomination Rights Nominees. Price on Application.
2. Are the children of full-time staff at ESF or ESF Educational Services Ltd
3. Are siblings of students already attending an ESF primary or secondary school or Jockey Club Sarah Roe School
4. Are Individual Nomination Rights Nominees. HK$500,000 for the academic year 2013/14
5. Are the children of former students who have attended an ESF school for a minimum of 3 years or are former ESF students returning from a period overseas
6. Are other applicants who can benefit from an English-medium education
As you can see, a new arrival to Hong Kong is bottom of the list, unless they hold some form of nomination rights. With ESF waiting lists doubling over the last 3 years, securing a school place can be hard to impossible. There is most competition for places in the early Primary years. If you will consider any of the ESF school locations in Hong Kong, there is a chance your child may gain admission. Over time it may be possible to then transfer your child to your ESF school/location of preference. Once your oldest child is admitted, siblings are third on the admission priority list.
Despite the higher fees, non-ESF International Schools may be more accessible to the newly arrived family who might otherwise have to buy an ESF Nomination Right to guarantee a place.
Here are indicative costs (2014) for some international schools:
|School||Corporate Debenture||Individual Debenture||Capital Levy|
|Chinese International School||Limited Availability||HK$75,000||HK$17,500 (payable by non-debenture holders)|
|Canadian International School||HK$27,000 (payable by non-debenture holders)|
|Harrow International School||HK$3,000,000||HK$600,000||HK$50,000 (payable by non-debenture holders)|
|Hong Kong Academy||HK$500,000 (one child exempt from capital levy)||HK$18,000|
|Kellett School||HK$500,000||HK$100,000||HK$40,000 (6th form only, paid over 2 years)|
|Nord Anglia International School||HK$5,000,000 (Platinum)||HK$400,000||HK$50,000 (payable by non-debenture holders)|
Parents also have the alternative of applying to non-ESF ‘through train’ school, where existing Kindergarten students are prioritized. Despite the attraction of not going through multiple school admissions whilst the student is progressing through their education, many of these schools would not be suitable for students requiring an EMI.
ESF Fees and other costs
ESF’s tuition fees for the academic year 2013/14 are as follows:
- Primary Hong Kong Schools (Primary 1 to 6) HK$ 70,000 per year
- Secondary Hong Kong Schools (Year 7 to 11) HK$ 101,400 per year
- Secondary Hong Kong Schools (Year 12 to 13) HK$ 106,300 per year
These fees may not be representative of the future tuition fees as ESF is under pressure from the phasing out/withdrawal of the government subvention and lack of provision for the rebuilding of aging schools. This has resulted in:
- The introduction of a one-off Refundable Building Levy (RBL) of HK$25,000 for each child on admission. For families with more than two children, the RBL will be HK$10,000 for the third and subsequent child.
- PIS schools charge a Non-Refundable Building Levy (NBL) instead of the RBL. Discovery College charges HK$5,900 per child per year. Renaissance College charges new incoming Year One students a one-off HK$50,000 (pro-rata for older students).
- Fees at some schools are set to rise steeply. Discovery College recently informed parents of a projected 54% increase in fees 2013-2017, factoring in the introduction of the NBL.
ESF Hong Kong schools require a deposit of two months fees. Fees for the year are payable over 10 months. Students from Year 6 or Year 7 require laptops. Overseas school trips, after school activities, kit/uniform, books etc. are all additional costs.
ESF Kindergartens & Pre-Schools
Kindergartens & Pre-Schools
Anfield International Kindergarten
Bambino English Playschool (Tel: +852 2576 5269)
Box Hill (HK) International Kindergarten & Pre-School
Casa De Bambini
City Kids Pre-School & Playgroup
David Exodus Kindergarten
Deborah Educational Institute*
Discovery Mind International Play Centre & Kindergarten
Etonhouse International Pre-School*
Highgate House School
Hong Kong (Ascot) Pre-School & Playschool
International Christian School – Kindergarten (Tel: +852 3156 1234)
International Montessori School
Island Children’s Montessori School & Kindergarten
Kingston Children’s Centre & Kindergarten
Kowloon Baptist Church Kindergarten
Learning Habitat Kindergarten*
Mills International School Pre-School
Montessori for Children
OISCA Japanese Kindergarten
Sai Kung International Pre-School
Small World Christian Kindergarten
St Lorraine English Kindergarten
St Teresa’s Kindergarten
Stafford English Kindergarten
Sunshine House International Pre-Schools*
ESF Primary Hong Kong Schools List
ESF Secondary Hong Kong Schools List
Hong Kong Schools for students with special educational needs
Aoi Pui School
Autism Partnership School Hong Kong
Hong Kong Junior (Tel: +852 2854 9115)
Jockey Club Sarah Roe School (ESF)
Rainbow Project Learning Center
The Child Development Center
The Children’s Institute of Hong Kong
The Nesbitt Center
The Springboard Project
ESF Private Independent Hong Kong Schools
Private / International Schools in Hong Kong
American International School
Australian International School Hong Kong
Canadian International School
Chinese International School
Christian Alliance P. C. Lau Memorial International School
Concordia International School
Delia School of Canada
Discovery Bay International School
German Swiss International School
Harrow International School Hong Kong
Hong Kong Academy
Hong Kong International School
Hong Kong Japanese School
Independent Schools Foundation Academy
International Christian School (Tel: +852 3156 1234)
International College Hong Kong
Island Christian Academy
Jockey Club Sarah Roe School
Kiangsu & Chekiang Primary School & Kiangsu-Chekiang College
Korean International School
Lyc’ee Francais International
Nord Anglia International School
Sear Rogers International School – Peninsula
Singapore International School (Hong Kong)
Sir Ellis Kadorie Primary School
The Harbour School
Victoria Shanghai Academy
Hong Kong Primary Schools
Hong Lok Yuen International School
Japanese International School
Kingston International School
Lantau International School
Norwegian International School
The International Montessori – an IMEF School
Think International School
United Muslim Association of Hong Kong International Primary School
Yew Chung International School
Through Train Schools
Diocesan Boys School
Diocesan Girls Junior School
Diocesan Girls School
Fukien Secondary School
Fukien Secondary School (Affiliated)
HKBUAS Wong Kam Fai Secondary & Primary School
HKCCU Logos Academy
HKUGA Primary School
Hon Wah College
Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School
Po Leung Kuk Luk Hing Too Primary School
Po Leung Kuk Laws Foundation College
Pui Kiu College
St Margaret’s Co-Educational English Secondary & Primary School
St Paul’s College Primary School
St Paul’s college
St Paul’s Co-Educational College Primary School and College
Tsung Tsin Primary School & Kindergarten
Tsung Tsin Christian Academy
Ying Wa Primary School
Ying Wa College
YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College