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Education Question Time – Is there something you are desperate to find out about Hong Kong s

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

Q: My child is one-year-old and I’ve not applied for any schools yet. Am I too late; should I panic? A: Not at all! Some schools do accept applications from birth but very few take the date of submission into serious consideration. For a child of one, we advise that you plan for primary school age four or five and work backwards to identify good fit kindergartens.

Your child can begin pre-nursery at two-years, so you may want to look at putting in some applications for him/her to start in September 2018.

Q: I need an affordable international school. Does such a thing exist? A: Yes but affordable means different things to different people or a long time ESF was deemed affordable Friends of mine who had children earlier than me were paying around $45,000 for primary 10 years ago. Today, I get worried when a client stipulates anything less than $140,000 as a ceiling!

By definition international schools are private schools that do not receive any subsidies from the government. If you’re choosing an international school, you are effectively opting out of the free public schools available to every child legally resident in Hong Kong.

If tuition costs of international schools are prohibitive, look at Direct Subsidy Schools and local private schools Your child will need to learn Chinese as early as possible and keep it up.

That being said, I can list a few international primary schools for your consideration not an exhaustive list

  1. Delia School of Canada $110,000

  2. ESF * $106,500

  3. French International School $106,731 – $109,815 + $90,000 one off

  4. HKCA Po Leung Kuk School $89,800

  5. Island Christian Academy $106,000 + annual levy $11,500

  6. Korean International School $100,000

  7. Japanese International School $99,250 + annual levy $15,200

  8. Kiangsu International School $76,500

  9. Rosebud School $62,000 + $8,000 annual levy

* multiple schools apply to the school in your one according to your address

Q: Which schools have shorter waitlists? A: Many parents talk of the dreaded waitlist. Waitlists are not actually as scary as the talk of waitlists.

For most schools, a waitlist doesn’t exist until the first round of interviews have been completed for entry level. Three outcomes from an interview are accepted, waitlisted and rejected.

A minority of schools do operate a waitlist with strict (ish) sequencing but increasingly, the waitpool is taking over. In our opinion, a waitpool makes more sense. A school operating a waitpool will collect all applications during a prescribed period before interviews are scheduled y some non scientific method that takes a variety of factors into account, applicants will be selected to be invited to interview. Factors considered include applicants English language proficiency and that of the parents nationality gender race ethnicity and month of birth. The idea is to create diverse classes of suitable children. Essentially, all international schools are striving for this except their definition of suitable differs to the dreaded waitlist is mostly applicable to late applicants. If you’re not late, you need not worry too much about waitlists and waitpools.

Ruth Benny is the founder of Top Schools. She has 19 years’ experience of the education system in Hong Kong.

If you have any questions for Ruth email

Originally published in Playtimes June 2017


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