In Hong Kong, some pre-schools offer parent/child time for babies from age one. The youngest age that preschoolers may participate alone is two years and nine months. Legally, all children must be in full-time education between the ages of 6 and 15. Typically, primary school is participated by children aged 6 to 12; junior secondary school is for children 13 to 16 and senior secondary school offers education for teenagers 17 to 18. More that 90% of young adults in Hong Kong will complete either senior secondary school or the equivalent in vocational training.

Perhaps this high percentage of school finishers is due to the seriousness of education in Hong Kong. Students are expected to work long and hard from the age of three. There is strong competition for places in the best schools and kids are often coached for hours every evening by their parents in order to do well on the entrance exams. 

Expatriates with children in Hong Kong have plenty of choice in the education field. For a UK-style curriculum, the English Schools Foundation has 17 schools from pre-school to secondary level. The Hong Kong International School (HKIS) offers an American educational system. There are also schools for students who wish to follow a national curriculum from Canada, France, Germany/Switzerland, Japan and Korea. Expatriate students may also attend schools that offer the local curriculum and immersion Cantonese programs.

The majority of good schools have a waiting list, so it is a good idea to make educational choices a first priority. Your choice of school may also affect your decision about where to live, as ESF schools have a zoning policy to ensure the safe passage of children to and from school. 

Major Curriculum

There are 5 basic models available in primary and secondary schools of Hong Kong:

1. The UK curriculum is followed by the bulk of Hong Kong’s international schools. This curriculum has led to the prominence of General Advanced Level (A-Level) examinations.

2. The US curriculum leads to further education at North American colleges and universities.

3. The Australian curriculum offers the School Certificate (SC) and the Higher School Certificate (HSC). 

4. The Hong Kong curriculum is a domestic version of the UK curriculum and offers the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE). 

5. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma is mounting a serious challenge to the UK system. The IB offers a more rigorous and balanced approach than A-Levels. The IB, which is accepted by many universities around the world, is available in some international schools and is currently being assessed for its suitability in some ESF establishments.

Steps to successful school search

There are 5 basic models available in primary and secondary schools of Hong Kong: 

1. Decide which school system/curriculum you want to put your children into (example; British, Australian, French, HKIS, etc.) 

2. Conduct a School Search 

3. Review the schools checklist, fill out application form, and submit supporting documents. 

4. Preview trip (optional) to view school and meet with the admission officer or school principal. 

5. Find out if your company offers a school debenture, which can give you priority for admissions. 

6. Application is processed by the school. If there are spaces available the school may conduct an admissions exam or interview of the student. 

7. Student is accepted to the school 

8. Pay fees/debenture/deposit. 

9. School begins.