How to avoid the classic international school “traps”

Recently relocated to Hong Kong? Or been here for a while but new to parenting? If you’re planning on sending your child to an international school, here are a few common expat “traps” and how to avoid them.


Avoid some of the common mistakes expats make when it comes to choosing an international school.

Applying Late

While schooling in Hong Kong is only mandatory from the age of six, most children here begin their formal education when they’re two or three years old. A normal “on-time” application is one that’s submitted at least a year ahead of the start of the international school year. Any application submitted less than a year in advance is usually considered late. To put it more simply: you should aim to apply when your child is two, three or four years of age to enter school when he or she is three, four or five respectively.

If you’re late to apply to a school you are interested in, all is not lost – you may still apply. However, you should carefully consider the chances of that application’s success. A less obvious trap is applying too early. This may result in an early assessment and, if successful, an early offer. If you haven’t yet had your child assessed at other schools you’re interested in, you’ll have fallen into the trap of paying down a deposit you may later forfeit. So, getting in early with an application isn’t always beneficial.

Applying to too many of the “wrong” schools


Advice from friends, although well-meaning, can be confusing.

Believing the hype

Here’s the thing: each of your friends/neighbours/ colleagues has limited experience. Put all their experiences and advice together, and you end up way more confused than you were to start with! No, you don’t need to apply to ten schools when your child is born. Yes, your child will get into a good school. No, you do not need to buy a debenture. Many parents find all the “noise” deafening. So, we suggest a strategic, realistic and flexible approach that starts with YOU.

This article first appeared in the 2017 edition of Expat Living’s City Guide. Getyour free copy now!

Have more questions about schools in Hong Kong? Read ‘What’s the best school in Hong Kong?’

Header photo from British Council International Pre-School | Used with permission

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