5 tips for parents choosing international schools in Hong Kong
As more international schools open in Hong Kong, an expert advises expatriates how to win their coveted places
Petra Almond is an international school specialist, residential agency, at international property firm Knight Frank. She discusses the factors expatriate parents should consider when they choose an international school for their children.
What should expatriates look for when picking an international school in Hong Kong?
Curriculum choice is the first thing. The American, Australian and British curriculums are considered the mainstreams, while the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum has also gained popularity among international students. There are other schools that offer education based on their home country’s system, such as the German-Swiss, French, Australian and Singapore International Schools. The English Schools Foundation (ESF) schools are popular options and they offer the IB system. There are 22 ESF schools located in different districts, but they only accept students who live within the designated “catchment areas”. More than half of them are located in traditional and new expat areas, [such as] Pok Fu Lam, Mid-Levels, The Peak, south side, Lantau [Discovery Bay and Tung Chung], and Sai Kung. The second consideration is availability. Admission to private international and ESF schools can be very competitive, but the situation is improving with the opening of more international schools. New international schools that have opened shop for the 2016/17 academic year include American School Hong Kong [Tai Po], The Harbour School [Ap Lei Chau], [and] Think International School [secondary school, Kowloon Tong]. For the 2017/18 school year, Chinese Academy Primary School [Causeway Bay], Stamford American School [Ho Man Tin] and Mount Kelly International School [Tuen Mun] are expected to open. For 2018/2019, Malvern College Hong Kong [Tai Po], Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong [Tseung Kwan O] and French International School [Tseung Kwan O] are expected to open for applications soon.
What are these schools’ admission criteria. And what are the average fees parents should expect?
Priority is given to debenture holders, siblings of current students, and teachers’ children. Some schools focus more on academic results and family background. Debentures can be traded at prices of up to millions of Hong Kong dollars on the secondary market, although there is no guarantee that the child will be admitted. Also, debenture terms vary from one school to another. Besides debenture and capital levy charges, school fees can range from HK$80,000 to HK$200,000 per annum.
How does your team help expat families choose the right school and home location?
We will help the family choose the right school depending on the child’s curriculum choice. Once chosen, we will provide a list of schools and schedule of realistic admission prospects. And then, we will look at the school that works. Once a school place has been secured, we will find a residential location that meets the family’s expectations.
How much time is needed for school applications?
Applications for entry are typically submitted 12 months before admission, usually in the autumn. For ESF schools, it needs more than a year for the admission-application process. However, people generally are given only three months.
Is it better or necessary to live close to the school? If not, is school bus transport available and convenient?
It’s not necessary to live close, but that depends on how long a commute parents want the children to have. For example, a longer commute time is fine for high-school kids. However, it is not ideal for preschool children. After all, incoming expats generally want an enthusiastic community to move to as it is easier for them to make friends and settle into the community quicker.