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Pushchair to Preschool: A Don't Panic Guide

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

Getting into the ‘best’ school in Hong Kong is not an exact science

Sometimes it feels like the only way through the hallowed gates is via a family connection, or a near-perfect test score, or by forking out millions for debentures. Whichever way, it’s almost always a case of parent pays.

Having the means to afford the fees is not usually enough to guarantee entry into a top private school in the city, with families quite used to the idea of competing for a fixed number of places. The tide has started to turn and hopefully the power that admissions offices hold will wane as new schools open and parents gain more power but, up until now, the market demand has enabled many schools to accept applications from birth. But, most parents agree that the practice achieves little other than taking advantage of their anxiety.

"My daughter was born 5 days after the cut off. Even though we put her name down the day after she was born, she didn’t get an interview since they had 300+ names ahead of hers. Poor kid was penalised because her parents didn’t time her conception “right”! “ Nicola.

For many schools, accepting applications from birth is an opportunity to attract potential families early on, not to mention gain an important source of revenue.

Please note that this does not guarantee entry to those applying early, nor ensure priority access above those who apply later.

Many parents believe that, if they are enrolling their student at birth, then the student will be granted some kind of priority, or placed higher up the waitlist. However, this is rarely the case. Waitlists have largely been replaced by wait-pools nowadays and so the system appears to only work in favour of the schools, which make final enrolment decisions based on family background, interviews and discretion.

The notion of accepting applications from birth for international schools is also inherently flawed due to the fact that they are keen on attracting children who aren’t born in Hong Kong. And, on the flip side, children born in HK to transient expats, have often moved on by the time their child is of age.

"As a first time mum, I feel under such pressure to read up on application procedures. I applied when my child was 18 months old and was told I might not make the cut for the interview invitation.” Winney, First Time Mum


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