Education and Childcare in Hong Kong
8th June, 2019
Hong Kong is a popular expat destination, largely because of the job opportunities on offer. However, for expats with young or school-aged children, relocating is complicated by the fact that the move has to take into account the needs of your children.
Your relocation won’t be a success if you can’t find adequate childcare options for young children or excellent learning opportunities for school-aged kids. Use this guide to gain an understanding of your options before leaving.
Education in Hong Kong
Here are some facts about the education system in Hong Kong:
- Hard work and education are key values in Hong Kong, students have a high-expectations placed on them and the schooling system is among the most competitive in the world
- Examination results in primary school have a significant bearing on where students are placed at a secondary level. High results mean students end up at an elite secondary school, known as a Grant Schools. Attendance at a Grant School provides a pathway to the world’s top universities, while attendance at other secondary schools can provide students with sub-par education
- Most schools in Hong Kong are publically funded, with Cantonese being the primary level of instruction, although a focus on bi and trilingualism in encouraged, meaning students will often be instructed in Cantonese, Mandarin and English
- If language is a barrier, expats often send their children to international schools where English is the primary language of instruction. International schools may also be a preferred option for parents who don’t want their children to deal with the competitiveness and intense workload placed on students in the public system
- A recent reform in the education system was made in response to the large amounts of expat students arriving in Hong Kong. The Government has created programs that are designed to prepare students for the public school system and help them adjust to the language and curriculum demands.
You can learn more about the Hong Kong education system by visiting the Government’s Education Bureau page.
Primary and Secondary School in Hong Kong
As a relic of its past as a colony of Britain, the school levels in Hong Kong are quite similar to that of Britain and therefore Australia. Primary school lasts for six years, and secondary school runs for five. However, secondary school is broken up into two levels, junior secondary and senior secondary.
The main difference between the Australian and Hong Kong systems is that students who wish to attend a university must go through a further two years of education which prepare them for advanced level organisations.
Students begin primary school at the age of six, and due to the pressures on places, some schools divide students into two groups, with one group attending school in the morning and the other in the afternoon. There are examinations at the end of primary school which are used to place students in a secondary school.
Secondary schools are divided into three bands, from band 1 to 3, with Grant Schools being in the first band. Junior secondary school is both compulsory and free, but there are fees attached to attending senior secondary school, although this fee is heavily subsidised.
At the end of senior secondary school students sit the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE), before taking the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) which enables students to enter universities.
International Schools in Hong Kong
International schools offer education according to either the International Baccalaureate or in the curriculum of the expats home country, including Australia. These schools are great options for children but waiting lists can be long, and the fees are expensive. View a list of international schools in Hong Kong here.
Childcare in Hong Kong
There are a number of childcare options in Hong Kong which cater to children before they are old enough to attend kindergarten. Costs for childcare can be expensive, ranging from HK$10,000 to HK$100,000 per year. Private nannies are also an option, and they can be less expensive and offer more flexibility. Your child will also benefit from being looked after by a local who can teach them some Cantonese and help them with social norms and etiquette.
You can find more information about childcare centres on this Social Welfare Department page.
Kindergartens in Hong Kong
Children can attend kindergarten from the age of two years and eight months. These kindergartens are similar to Australian pre-school options in that they offer learning outcomes. They are usually privately run, and each kindergarten must adhere to standards set out by the Education Bureau, which includes passing inspections, having qualified teaching staff and having a teacher to student ratio of no more than 1:15.
If you are planning on moving with family read our guide on transport & housing and working in Hong Kong. Or if you are just an avid traveller exploring the nature and the concrete skyscrapers read our top 5 things to know when in Hong Kong.
If you’d like any further information about Hong Kong, or the relocation process, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly international removals team.