How to Find the Best Schools For Expat Children in Hong Kong

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While public schools in Hong Kong are considered academically excellent, the study approach is learning by rote and reinforced through examinations. Also, local schools may promote themselves as English schools but many still conduct a majority of lessons in Cantonese; as the language is the main medium of communication in Hong Kong.

This can be a challenge for parents of non-Chinese speaking kids, and explains why many expats who can afford to pay more prefer to enroll their children in private international schools, which mostly uses English as the main language of instruction. If you’re an expat who’s planning to move to Hong Kong with school-going children, do your research and bear in mind the following guidelines:

Public Schooling & Private Tutoring in Hong Kong

School terms in Hong Kong usually start from September to July every year. The country is a good place to study if expat children are driven and can take the stress of competition as in addition to their normal school hours, children often have to spend several hours at private tutoring centers trying to keep their grades above, or at least on par, with their peers. This creates a snowball effect, as consistently good or excellent grades will help them gain admission into the institutions they want.

While Western schools may put more of an emphasis on all roundedness, Chinese schools have been known to drive their students to keep up academically—which explains the trend for packing kids’ lives with math tuitions, language classes, computer lessons, and the list goes on! Expat parents whose children have assimilated into the system since kindergarten and picked up the language find their children adapt better compared to those that jump in at higher levels.

Private International Schools in Hong Kong

Just last year, the city issued 28,380 general work visas, which is a 35 per cent increase since 2009. The burgeoning expat population, coupled with local families’ desire for a Western-style education, has led to an increase in demand for international school placements that supply cannot meet, leading expats and the government to worry. Waiting lists are sometimes so long that expat parents planning to move to Hong Kong are advised to place their entry submissions WAY ahead of time (some have reportedly done so as soon as their ultrasound results were out!) in the hopes of securing admission into international schools.

For expat families aiming to get their kids settled in a good international school and stay in Hong Kong for the long term, planning ahead is a prerogative, on top of smart saving and investing.

Cost of Studying in Hong Kong (Private Institutions)

Here’s an idea: Harrow International charges about HKD 136,500 (USD 17,610), while other private schools charge about HKD 79,500 (USD 10,200). There have been a few cases where families have paid at least $50,000 in order to get priority on the waiting list, however, this only applies to affluent expats. The majority has to be smart in planning ahead and saving!

Expats’ Consideration: Top Five Schools for Expat School-Going Children
Expat parents will find that there are a good number of international schools in Hong Kong offering the British, American or Australian curriculum. Others looking for a more national curriculum that ties back with their home country can also go for Canadian, French, German, Norwegian and Swiss schools.

1. King George V School

More popularly known as KGV or K-G-Five, the institution is a co-educational international secondary independent school of the English Schools Foundation, located in Kowloon. Most of the teaching staff are expats, as the school aims to produce highly achieving students and creativity in an engaging, enjoyable, sustainable, and diverse learning environment—they have a lot of students who went on to Oxbridge and Ivy League! The institution caters to children between the ages of 12 to 18.

2. German Swiss International School (GSIS)

GSIS is one of the few international schools that caters to German and Swiss families and families looking for a German-English bilingual education. The institution enrolls students from kindergarten to secondary in two parallel streams known as the English Stream and the German Stream. There is also a Business College for students who are interested in Wholesale & Foreign Trade and Transport & Logistics Management training programmes. A few of their notable alumni are actor Stephen Fung and singer Alfred Hui.

3. Hong Kong International School (HKIS)

A private, international Christian school with 2 campuses—one in Repulse Bay and the other in Tai Tam, HKIS provides education reception one to Grade 12. If you’re looking for your child to rub shoulders with some of Hong Kong’s wealthiest, look no further: the institution is equipped with facilities like multiple gyms, large fields, swimming pool, theatre, and has a 1:1 policy. The policy means that every student from Grade 5 upwards was equipped with an Apple MacBook Air and younger students learn using a wide range of software using MacBook Pros, iPod Touchs, and iPads that remain at school.

HKIS also follows an American-styled curriculum, offering various Advanced Placement courses and 3 foreign languages in Middle School and High School: French, Spanish and Chinese. An extensive fine arts program is offered in high school, and the school frequently hosts activities and events related to performing and visual arts. HKIS’ alumni include actor and singer Edison Chen, Lifehouse’s lead singer Jason Wade, and actor Nicholas Tse.

4. American International School (AIS)

As its namesake suggests, AIS is a private coeducational institution that delivers education based on US standards, for students from early childhood through Grade 12. The students are actively involved in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, and the institution has created a house system that has students competing against each other. The 3 houses are based on animals and colours coming from the school emblem, as well as the American flag. The three animals are the Blue Dragons, the White Tigers, and the Red Phoenix.

5. Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS)

CDNIS is an international school in Aberdeen, Hong Kong that provides education to a diverse range of students from pre-reception to Grade 12. If you want your child to have the best education, this is it: CDNIS was recognized as the “Leading International School in Hong Kong”, by Hong Kong Business’ magazine’s High-Flyers campaign for 6 consecutive years! Additionally, the Fraser Institute Report Card awarded CDNIS with a perfect 10, making CDNIS 1 of 3 schools that’s delivering the Ontario curriculum to achieve this ranking in 2009 AND the only school to achieve this ranking for 2 consecutive years. Like HKIS, they have a laptop program, which means that all teachers are issued laptops, and all students have regular access to iPads and MacBooks.

Did we miss out anything? Are you an expat parent and which school did you choose for your child(ren) and why? Do share your experiences, thoughts and suggestions in the comment box below!

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