PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

My son isn't expecting to do well enough in his HKCEEs to do A-levels in Hong Kong. I'm interested in sending him to the United States. What kind of schools or colleges could he enrol in there?

Education reporter Jill Yung responds:

The US is one of the most popular countries for Hong Kong students who do not find a place for A-levels here.

There are more than half-a-million foreign students studying in the US, with more than 7,000 from Hong Kong, according to the Institute of International Education's Hong Kong office.

After Form Five, students have two options in the US. They can either apply to enter Grade 11 or 12 at private secondary schools or find a place in a community college.

The secondary school curriculum is similar in level to that in Form Five or Six in Hong Kong, according to Katherine Fung-Surya, local director for the institute. Students completing Grade 12 can move on to four-year university courses after taking the SAT tests. Subjects offered vary, but language, arts, sciences, geography, American history, world history and economics are the most common.

Most Hong Kong students go to community colleges where they can experience life in a tertiary education institute much earlier. They are also cheaper.

Community colleges, which date back nearly 100 years, pioneered the associate degree and run these programmes over two years. There are about 1,200 colleges in the US. Fields of study include the arts, accounting, business, engineering, psychology, science, computing, sociology and many others. They aim to combine general knowledge with practical and technical skills.

Joint admission programmes with universities are offered so that students completing the associate degrees can be transferred directly to the third year of a university more easily than is the case for associate degree graduates in Hong Kong. But students can switch to other universities.

Students at community colleges will mix with a wide variety of people, from all ages and nationalities.

Class sizes of between 10 and 40 are relatively small compared with university lectures. Students have the chance to develop close working relationships with faculty members.

Accommodation is not provided. Students live independently, either in home-stays or hostels.

To gain entry to a community college students must complete Form Five and gain a TOEFL score between 450 and 520 (paper-based) or 133 and 190 (computer-based).

The ability to learn in English is required but many colleges offer language immersion programmes before term starts.

The annual tuition fee of a private secondary school is about US$20,000 while a community college costs about US$2,200 a year.

For more information, visit:

The Education and Manpower Bureau:


The Institute of International Education:


The American Association of Community Colleges:


LITZ USA Student Service: www.litzusa.com

International Studies Service Centre: www.issc.com.hk

CJR Education Service Centre Limited:


US Consulate (for student visa information):