Education and Schools in Hong Kong
Schools in Hong Kong are well regarded academically. Although public schools uphold a high standard of learning, the curriculum is centred on learning by repetition and frequent examinations. As a result, expat families customarily enrol their children in private international schools. Fortunately, the melting pot nature of Hong Kong ensures that there are many international teachers and school options for expat children.
Schools in Hong Kong
There are a large number of international schools in Hong Kong that teach the British, American or Australian curriculum, and which are attended by both foreigners and locals who want to get a foreign education. There is also some choice, although it is more limited, for families from many other countries who want their little ones to continue with their national curriculum. These include, but are not limited to, Canadian, Norwegian, French, German and Swiss schools.
There are also a few local schools that have English instruction streams. These should be carefully researched, as many local schools advertise as English schools but conduct the majority of classes in Cantonese. These schools would just be an extra challenge for non-Chinese speaking children and parents.
The competitive nature of schools in Hong Kong means that private tutoring is very common. Children often spend several hours before and after school attending tutoring sessions and music lessons to make themselves more attractive to the international schools. Many expat families adopt this local practice to allow their children to keep up with their peers. School years are typically from September to July.
Most expat families living in Kowloon or the New Territories choose an international school based on proximity to their home in order to cut down on the time it takes to commute.
The limited number of places at international schools in Hong Kong has become a primary concern of expats families lately. This form of education has become so popular among well-to-do local families that places are often filled by non-expat children. Those who want to find English-medium instruction are finding it increasingly difficult to compete for school slots, which are often assigned well before primary school begins. Enrolling students in the best schools is often nearly impossible; however, the good news is that international companies sometimes reserve spots for their employees’ kids.
Tuition and costs
The English School Foundation runs 20 Hong Kong schools, partly subsidised by the government, and tuition is upwards of 97,000 HKD per annum for secondary school. Strictly private international schools can be considerably more expensive – as much as 210,000 HKD per annum. These fees will sometimes be covered by corporate expat packages, although this is becoming less common.
Families with an expat package that does not include a school subsidy are finding the cost of education in Hong Kong to be prohibitively expensive. A growing number of expats are choosing to return to their home countries because they can no longer afford to educate their children abroad. The increasing school fees are currently a source of concern and ongoing debate within the international community, and should be carefully considered before moving to Hong Kong with a family.
Homeschooling in Hong Kong
Homeschooling is illegal for locals, but expat families are generally allowed to pursue this option. There is a homeschooling support network located primarily in Discovery Bay, a popular location for expat families.
Adult education in Hong Kong
Adults interested in continuing their own education will find a number of reputable graduate programmes in subjects from education to creative writing and business. Hong Kong universities offer many classes and degrees in English. Tuition is competitive, and many of the degree programmes are designed for working professionals who can only attend classes on the weekends.
There are also a number of language schools for expats of any age wishing to learn Cantonese or Mandarin. Some of the top ones are Amerispan, the Hong Kong Language Learning Centre and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Language exchanges and private tutoring are also common.
Education is taken very seriously in Hong Kong culture. Teachers are treated with a great deal of respect, and students tend to be disciplined and well behaved. Despite the challenges, Hong Kong can be a great place to learn.