Choosing the Right School in Hong Kong

Education isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair and thankfully international schools come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it is the breadth and flexibility of the curriculum that appeals or perhaps the extra-curricular activities or facilities, you can be assured that your child will receive a well-rounded education at any international school you choose in Hong Kong.

International schools in Hong Kong deliver high teaching standards that enable students to obtain great results year after year. For example, in 2021, the IB Diploma average score of Hong Kong students was 38.93/45 points, up from 31.24 in May 2020 and higher than the global average score of 32.99. Another increase was the rate of percentage of students passing the Diploma, which was 88.9%, up from 85.18% in May 2020. Impressive results for any parent who is seeking a secondary school.

Parents in Hong Kong, expatriate and local, invest a great deal of energy in identifying and pursuing the most appropriate primary and secondary schools for their children, and parents’ preferences are influential to schools.

If asked how to go about choosing the right school for your child what would you say? It's a question that you should be asking yourself if your child is of schooling age or is already in school and making the move from primary to secondary.

By asking the question, it will throw up a myriad of additional questions that together can make for something of a minefield as you take the path in finding a new school.

When choosing a school there are quite many important factors which parents need to consider, these. From our experience with guiding parents in finding the right schools for 12 years in Hong Kong, our top 10 criteria for choosing the ideal school are:

  • School reputation & academic excellence
  • Through-train Vs standalone schools
  • School fees and related costs
  • Teacher qualifications and reputation
  • School leadership
  • Curriculum/ medium of teaching
  • Location/ distance from home
  • Fees
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Facilities

With so many schools offering different environments, teaching styles and philosophies, the experience of choosing a school can feel overwhelming. However, with the right help and careful research, it is possible to find schools that fit perfectly with your child’s academic, social and emotional needs and will suit you all as a family. Some further thoughts are outlined here to help you as you embark on the school search journey in Hong Kong.

Understand your child

The first step in choosing the right school is to determine what type of student your child is and what environment she will most likely succeed in. The burning questions at this stage are:

  • Which qualities, in their unique combination within your child, really matter for choosing a school?
  • Which of your child’s personality traits or learning styles will fit into the teaching style?
  • Which of your child’s strengths and weaknesses can be addressed at school, and which can be developed at home?
  • When your child’s and family’s needs fit well with what your child’s school offers, this is then the “right fit.”

Understand the educational systems in Hong Kong

As previously mentioned, the selection of schools in Hong Kong is quite remarkable. There are 3 types of educational systems in the city: public, private international and private independent. Deciding on an educational system is a big factor to consider when choosing a school for your child. Typically, expatriate children attend the private international or the private independent schools.

At local schools, the main language of instruction is Cantonese Even though may public schools have international programmes to help non-Cantonese speaking students acclimatize, it’s not a viable option for expatriates who prefer a more international learning environment for their children.

Find out about the fees

Tuition at an international school can be very high, some reaching HK$200,000-$230,000 a year for Primary level. The annual tuition fee is not all that is required, there are building maintenance fees, annual levies, extra-curricular activities, lunches, and bus service. It is worth learning about all the costs from deposits, debentures and so forth before you accept an offer. Check with prospective schools to find out more about the potential fees and any hidden costs – knowing these fees before you file an application will be very beneficial and may save you unnecessary stress at a later stage.

Visit the schools

It’s very important to visit schools. Use the opportunities presented by school open days to see what the school genuinely offers, it is also possible to register for online talks and virtual tours, if you are unable to physically visit the schools.

If necessary, make a shortlist of schools that you think may fit your needs and closer to the application period, visit the schools again. Sometimes a second look can throw up things that you may have missed the first round and a new leadership or group of teachers can also change dynamics a bit.

Remember to make notes – make lots of notes – don’t be afraid to ask questions – and follow up with an email if you have additional questions. Observe how the teachers and students interact if you can manage to visit early in the morning during drop off or at the end of the school day, don’t be afraid to speak to parents who are around the school. If you explain your reasons for asking them questions, they will be more than happy to help - don’t always depend on social media to get answers about the schools you need to learn more about.

In conclusion, finding the right school for your child is one of the most important tasks you as a parent will perform during their formative years. If you make the right choice and use a checklist then you will find your child will be happy, content and flourish in the pursuit of knowledge, which is one of the greatest gifts you as a parent will ever receive.

ITS Education Asia has supported many families in securing school places at their preferred school. Visit our website to learn more about our services.