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Preschools 101

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

In Hong Kong, children must start school at 6. However, it’s very normal for children to start at 2 or 3.  Broadly speaking a school for pre-primary children is known as ‘kindergarten’. This is a little over-simplified. Here’s a summary of the differences:For children agedTypeSchool registers with2 – 3NurserySocial Welfare Department3 – 6KindergartenEducation Bureau

Most nurseries and kindergartens operate two half-day sessions. A session is usually three hours.  Some offer a whole day option.

Many of the kindergartens are also nurseries and accept children from two years old. They usually proceed into K1 when they are three. Children may stay at kindergarten until they start primary school – usually at 4, 5 or 6.

Actually, the absolute minimum age for entry into K1 is 2 years 8 months.


All kindergartens are registered under the Education Ordinance and are categorised either as:

  1. non-profit-making kindergartens or

  2. private independent kindergartens

The first type – non-profit-making kindergartens – are usually run by charitable or religious institutions. The fees are comparably less than the private independent kindergartens and parents may apply for vouchers that can cover a large portion of the cost through The Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS). The maximum amount of subsidy available in the 2011/12 school year is $16,000/student per annum.

The second type – private independent kindergartens – are relatively more expensive and can be as high as $9,600/month for a half day.

Not all seeming to be kindergartens ARE kindergartens. Since the registration process is long and difficult, a few centres running a kindergarten curriculum fall a little short of the requirements to register as a kindergarten. No biggie, but worth noting. If they’re registered, they have the word ‘kindergarten’ or ‘preschool’ in their name.


Some parents ‘double up’ and send their little ones to two kindergartens; one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

And if you’re thinking that, since preschool is not compulsory, your child can skip it and stay home, think carefully. If you’ll be applying to a popular primary school, your child will be assessed to check s/he can write their name, etc. If your child hasn’t been to pre-school, they’ll find the assessment tough. Remember, most of the other kids will have been in ‘school’ since they were 2 AND done countless extra classes. Your child will be competing for places with those children.

If you’re thinking of an international school, particularly an IB school, competition is less fierce and the children won’t be expected to read and write at 4 or 5.

Get started by browsing our list of preschools or enter your criteria to search.


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