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Off to a flying start: An overview of early years education in Hong Kong

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

While preschool education is not compulsory in Hong Kong, more and more parents have decided to enroll their children in kindergartens and nursery classes in recent years. So, what’s the hype about preschool, and what exactly can your children get out of it?

Language exposure

The general wisdom on introducing a second, or even third, language, is “the earlier, the better”.

According to experts, a child should have 25 to 30 hours a week of exposure to a secondary language. If the target language is not spoken in the home, this should be increased. So, for non-native English or Chinese-speaking families, parents may choose a preschool to ensure their toddler is exposed to another language early. This is necessary when parents wish for the child to continue studying the language in primary and beyond.

A second key area to ponder is the learning that goes beyond academic studies. From the age of one, children may start to learn common social conventions such as waiting in line, washing hands before eating, taking turns, and sharing.

As they grow older, they come to appreciate that other people have rights and feelings just as they do. They learn to share, communicate, and negotiate with their peers, and begin to recognise the importance of friendship in their lives. These skills, important in themselves, are crucial in preparing a child for primary school.

The third important area to consider is admissions strategy. Many of the top primary and secondary schools have affiliated pre-schools. Getting into the school early earns the child priority in moving up. For many parents, this offers security.

Even if the parents choose a pre-school not directly affiliated, primary schools do look at a child’s previous schooling. It is standard procedure to include two year reports in any primary school application.

Types of schools

A preschool is either non-profit or private. Some have “international” in their names, but this just means that they teach either a partially or fully non-local curriculum.

Most kindergartens, however, teach the local Hong Kong curriculum.

Those offering non-local curricula may offer Montessori, the Dalton Plan, Waldorf, Forest, Reggio Emilia, UK early years foundation stage (EYFS), IB Primary Years Programme (IBPYP) for ages 3 to 12, or any combination of these.



The new free quality kindergarten education policy will come into effect from the 2017/18 school year.

Under this scheme, local non-profit kindergartens will be provided with a basic subsidy for the provision of a three-year, half-day programme for all eligible children.

Half-day programme fees will range from free to about HK$1,000 a month, while whole-day programmes will range from about HK$1,000 to HK$2,000 a month.

Private independent

Tuition fees range from about HK$5,000 to HK$14,000 a month.

Children aged two may attend classes a year prior to K1, known as Pre-Nursery. However, not all kindergartens offer programmes for two-year-olds. Those that do are licensed as Child Care Centres in addition to being licensed kindergartens.

While school is not mandatory until the age of six, the majority of children in Hong Kong begin their formal education at two, or three at the latest.

Originally posted in Education Post, May 15, 2017

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

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