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Unraveling the Preschool Puzzle: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents in Hong Kong

We all want the best education for our children. In Hong Kong, the official school-starting age is six, but it's commonplace for children to begin as early as two or three years old. This early introduction to education takes place in facilities often referred to as 'Pre-Nursery', 'Nursery', 'Preschool' or 'Kindergarten'.

Toy cars with children in the background

In Hong Kong, two main types of preschool facilities cater to different age groups:

  1. Pre-Nursery: For children aged 2 to 3. These institutions are registered with the Social Welfare Department.

  2. Kindergarten: For children aged 3 to 6. These schools are registered with the Education Bureau.

Most of these establishments run two half-day sessions, each lasting around three hours, with some offering full-day options. Many kindergartens also operate as nurseries and welcome children as young as two (they can start exactly on their second birthday). Typically, these children transition to K1 at three years old (minimum is 2 years, 8 months) and can remain there until they move to primary school at around age 4, 5, or 6.

Kindergarten Categories

Kindergartens in Hong Kong are registered under the Education Ordinance and are broadly divided into two types:

  1. Non-profit-making Kindergartens: These institutions are typically run by charitable or religious organizations and are more affordable. Parents can apply for vouchers through The Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) to help offset a significant portion of the cost. For instance, the maximum subsidy available during the 2011/12 school year was $16,000 per student annually.

  2. Private Independent Kindergartens: These are a bit pricier, reaching up to $9,600 monthly for a half-day session.

Be mindful, though. Some centres running a kindergarten curriculum may fall short of the requirements for official registration as a kindergarten due to the lengthy and rigorous process. However, if they're registered, they will carry the words 'kindergarten' or 'preschool' in their name.

Remember, there's no such thing as an international kindergarten. It's just a word in the name of the school and/or the business.

Check the Registration

It would be nice if we could believe everything we read on a kindergarten's website but that would be foolish!

So, we check the governing body - the Education Bureau and they have a website here:

Here's how to check the registration and what to look for:

Child showing a drawing

The Double Preschool Phenomenon

Only in Hong Kong!! Because many HK preschools only offer half day programs, some parents 'double up' by sending their children to two different kindergartens, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. While this may seem excessive, it might be very sensible, depending on the reasons for doing so.

The Impact of Preschool on Primary School Admissions

Although preschool is not compulsory, skipping it entirely might disadvantage your child when it's time to apply for primary school. Particularly for popular primary schools, your child will be assessed on basic abilities, including familiarity with a typical preschool class, the activities and the expectations. With most of their peers having been in 'school' since the age of two and taking numerous additional classes, your child will be competing with these children for spots.

However, for those considering international schools, they will mostly be enrolled by the time they are 3 or 4, so the idea is early enrolment.

Finding the right preschool can be a daunting task, but understanding the landscape and knowing your options will significantly ease your journey. Start exploring by browsing our list of preschools or enter your criteria to search. Here's to a bright future for your little one!


Further Reading We hope you found this article on Top Schools in Asia helpful and informative. For additional insights and strategies related to school selection and preparation, consider exploring the following articles:

  1. Perfecting the Admissions Process: Obtain effective strategies for a streamlined and successful school application process.

  2. Demystifying School Placements: Navigate the complexities of school admissions with our guide that separates myths from reality.

  3. Shaping Future Innovators: Discover the role schools can play in cultivating the innovators of tomorrow.

  4. Exploring Alternative Pathways: Not every student's journey follows the conventional route. Learn about alternative pathways to higher education and career success.

  5. Mastering School Budgeting: School budgeting need not be a headache with our practical guide on budgeting for the school year.

  6. Guide to Advanced School Research: Make informed choices for your child's education with our in-depth guide to advanced school research.

Remember, finding the best fit for your child's education involves careful consideration and diligent research. These resources can provide a wealth of knowledge to aid in your decision-making process. Happy reading!


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