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HONG KONG EDUCATION SYSTEM LOCAL & INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS

LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEM

There are three main types of local schools – government schools which are operated by the Government; aided schools which are fully subvented by the Government but run by voluntary bodies; and private schools, some of which receive financial assistance from the Government. Government and aided schools deliver a curriculum recommended by the Government. They offer free primary and secondary education.

PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Primary schooling starts at the age of six and there are 6 years of schooling at the primary level. There are three modes of operation in the primary schools, namely AM, PM and whole-day. Encouraged by the Government, most primary schools are adopting whole-day operation.

Admission to Primary One is through the Discretionary Places (DP) stage and the Central Allocation (CA) stage. At the DP stage, parents can apply for admission to only one government or aided primary school of their preference, and admission is based on the criteria prescribed by the EDB (Education Department Bureau). Therefore, it’s important at this stage to research schools with strong academic merits and a good reputation.

At the CA stage, P1 places are centrally allocated by the EDB according to the school zone, parents’ choice of schools, and an allocated random number.

The majority of local Primary schools in Hong Kong are Chinese medium of instruction and the primary curriculum covers a wide range of subjects including Social Studies, Science, Chinese, English, Mathematics, Music, Arts and Physical Education.

Class numbers are traditionally much higher than international schools. An average class, in both primary and secondary school could have over 35 students and it can be as many as 45.

SECONDARY SCHOOLS

All eligible students studying in local primary schools are allocated subsidised Secondary 1 (S1) places through participation in the Secondary School Places Allocation System. The system consists of the Discretionary Places (DP) stage and the Central Allocation (CA) stage. The admission to secondary schools is usually administered by the Secondary School Places Allocation System, based on the results of a student’s primary school examinations.

At the DP stage, only two secondary schools can be selected and secondary schools may admit students in accordance with their admission criteria. The S1 places are allocated according to individual student’s allocation band, parental choice of schools and an allocated random number.

All students attend 6 years of secondary education (3 years of junior secondary and 3 years of senior secondary education). On completion of Secondary 6, students take one public examination - the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination.

HIGHER EDUCATION

In Hong Kong, there are 20 local degree-awarding institutions, competition for places for undergraduate degrees at these institutions is high and places are substantially less than the number of students who actually fulfill the entry requirements for general admission to university

There are eight UGC(University Grants Committee)-funded institutions namely CityU, HKBU, Lingnan University, CUHK, PolyU, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST), HKU and most recently the Education University of HK (previously the HK Institute of Education 1994-2016).

The other 12 degree-awarding tertiary institutions not funded by the UGC include Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), OUHK, Hong Kong Shue Yan University (HKSYU), Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Hang Seng Management College, Tung Wah College, Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Centennial College, the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) of the VTC, Hong Kong Nang Yan College of Higher Education, HKCT Institute of Higher Education and Gratia Christian College.

In the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, Hong Kong University is ranked at 27th place, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is ranked at 36th place. And ranked at 44th place is Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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Learn about the international school, admissions policies, application procedures, fees and the different curricula available for expatriate children.

For expatriate families, the international schools are most often the best choice. There are over 50 international schools in Hong Kong. They are listed as Private International School, Private Independent Schools and The English Schools Foundation. These schools deliver curricula of the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Germany, France, Singapore and the International Baccalaureate. They also set their own admissions policies, application policies, fees and so on.

These schools are currently the most popular for expatriate families, in particular because the education is fluid and the academic programmes are highly suitable for English speaking students.

However, many of these schools have long wait lists and the majority have strict priority systems, this means, they primarily offer priority to siblings, alumni and debenture holders. International Schools, must maintain a high percentage of foreign passports other than, or in addition to, the HKSAR passport. This percentage can range from 50 to 90 per cent, depending on the school.

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS

Private international schools are in constant demand in Hong Kong. The majority of these schools follow an IB, British or American curriculum, though as with many countries worldwide, there are international schools which teach a national curriculum in their native language - the German Swiss International School Hong Kong (GSIS) and the Lycée Français International (French International School) are just two examples.

Many schools accept applications as soon as a child is born, once a birth certificate can be provided that is. Schools which accept applications this early are: Discovery Bay International School, French International School, German Swiss International School and Kellett School, Kiang Su & Chekiang School. In the majority of cases, the date of receipt is important in determining a child’s place in the queue – strictly chronological. However, the date of application is usually the weakest form of priority, behind corporate debentures, siblings, and specific nationals.

All other schools other than those already mentioned will accept applications only within a prescribed period – usually one or two years before intended entry. To name a few: American School Hong Kong, Canadian International School, Chinese International School, English Schools Foundation, Hong Kong Academy, Hong Kong International School, ICHK Hong Lok Yuen, Nord Anglia International School and The Harbour School. While these schools accept applications one or two years in advance of entry, the date of application is not a factor considered. As long as the application is in by the deadline, it will be considered. It is important to submit complete applications to schools on time and take note of your preferred schools’ application policies.

School tuition can be very high, reaching HKD215,000 a year(Year 7-11).In order for your child to enter school, you will need to pay a fee for the application and for the entrance test, upon acceptance of an offer, you will need to pay an enrolment fee, deposit, (possibly a debenture). Each year, you will pay the annual tuition fee, (possibly an annual levy) and other hidden costs which may include fees for extra-curricular activities and school trips.

It’s worth noting that while some costs may seem high, other things are often included within the school fees, such as technology, books, and classroom materials. It is important to check with your prospective schools to find out more about the potential fees and all the extra hidden costs.

Additional costs can include a nonrefundable application fee, a reservation fee that could be up to half of the annual tuition and an annual capital levy.

Want to know the nitty gritty on international school fees? View the video prepared by ITS & Little Steps Asia:

PRIVATE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS (PIS)

There are seven “private independent schools” in Hong Kong. They are: ESF’s Renaissance College and Discovery College, the Independent Schools Foundation Academy, Victoria Shanghai Academy, PLK Choi Kai Yau, International Christian School and Yew Chung International School (Secondary).

These schools are given land on a 10 year lease and a grant to construct a school building. Otherwise, they are funded by tuition fees and other fundraising efforts. The only ongoing grant they receive from the government is reimbursement of rates. As a result, the schools are obligated to set aside at least 10% of its total school fee income for scholarships and other financial assistance programmes. And, they are also obligated to ensure that at least 70% of the student population are Hong Kong Permanent Residents.

ENGLISH SCHOOLS FOUNDATION (ESF)

ESF was formally established in 1967 to provide a modern liberal education through the medium of the English language for English speaking children. ESF has five secondary schools, nine primary schools and a school for students with special educational needs across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Two “all through” Private Independent Schools and five kindergartens are operated by ESF’s affiliated company, ESF Educational Services Limited (ESL), which also offers English language classes and sports activities. ‘Over 17,500 students are currently educated under the ESF system; with 70 per cent of students have parents who are permanent residents of Hong Kong.

The education offered by ESF is underpinned by a broad and coherent curriculum aligned to its core values and to the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). In 2016, 16 ESF students achieved the perfect score of 45 points in the IB Diploma examinations. More than 95 percent of students go on to leading universities worldwide.

ESF was formally established in 1967 to provide a modern liberal education through the medium of the English language for English speaking children. ESF has five secondary schools, nine primary schools and a school for students with special educational needs across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Two “all through” Private Independent Schools and five kindergartens are operated by ESF’s affiliated company, ESF Educational Services Limited (ESL), which also offers English language classes and sports activities. ‘Over 17,500 students are currently educated under the ESF system; with 70 per cent of students have parents who are permanent residents of Hong Kong.

The education offered by ESF is underpinned by a broad and coherent curriculum aligned to its core values and to the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). In 2016, 16 ESF students achieved the perfect score of 45 points in the IB Diploma examinations. More than 95 percent of students go on to leading universities worldwide.

ESF Schools and International Schools: The Key Differences

ESF International/Private
Class size is typically 30 students Class size vary between 15 to 24 students
At least 70 per cent of the total number of students enrolled must qualify as “non-local”, meaning that they hold an overseas passport. Kindergartens are exempt from this rule. At least 30% of students are local passport holders.
Students can only apply to the school of zone according to their Hong Kong residential address No geographical restrictions; can apply to as many schools as you like.
Applicants from Hong Kong and overseas have equal status Priority is given to overseas applicants for interviews at certain school
Fully accredited to offer IB curriculum Free to offer any curriculum, or offer more than one curricula
Less competitive Most sought-after schools are fiercely competitive

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