Education and Schools in Hong Kong

Schools in Hong Kong are well regarded academically. Although public schools uphold a high standard of learning, the curriculum is mostly taught in Cantonese and centred on learning by repetition and frequent examinations.

As a result, expat families usually enrol their children in private international schools. Fortunately, the diverse nature of Hong Kong ensures that there are many international teachers and school options for expat children.

Public schools in Hong Kong 

Public schools in Hong Kong are fully funded by the government and offer free education to all children. The government has implemented language and cultural support programmes for non-Chinese-speaking children, which can ease the transition somewhat. However, this remains a difficult path, especially for older children who are unable to pick up a new language as quickly as younger kids.

Families in Hong Kong for the long haul may benefit from the cultural integration local schools offer – however, most expats opt for international schools instead, particularly those on a limited-term assignment.

International schools in Hong Kong

There is a large number of international schools in Hong Kong which teach the curriculum of their founding country or other internationally recognised programmes like the International Baccalaureate. The American and British curricula are taught by many international schools but other countries are also represented, such as Canada, France and Germany.

Fees for international schools are typically high, and families with an expat package that does not include a school subsidy may find the cost of international schools in Hong Kong to be prohibitively expensive.

The limited number of places at international schools in Hong Kong may also be a concern for expat families. For this reason, it's important to start the application process as early as possible.

Homeschooling in Hong Kong

The laws around homeschooling in Hong Kong are vague, but it is generally agreed that families intending to homeschool should inform the Hong Kong Education Bureau of their intention to do so. There are a number of local homeschooling organisations in Hong Kong that expats can seek guidance from.

Tutors in Hong Kong

Due the competitive nature of schooling in Hong Kong, hiring a tutor is common practice. For expats, tutors can be especially useful in smoothing the transition of an expat child into a new environment. Tutors can be hired for anything from general assistance with school subjects to helping maintain a child's mother tongue or helping them to pick up Mandarin. Differences in education systems may result in expat children being behind in some areas of their new curriculum, and tutors are an excellent way to catch up.

Tutoring in Hong Kong is big business, so expats will have plenty of choices. It's always best to thoroughly research all options before deciding on any particular tutor. Schools will often be able to recommend a tutor. Some of the larger tutoring groups include the i-Seven Education Center and British Tutors. 

Special needs education in Hong Kong

Most international schools in Hong Kong offer special needs facilities, but the type of support offered varies widely from school to school. Some schools offer assistance with only mild learning difficulties while others will have more extensive support systems designed to deal with a range of needs. Some endeavour to keep special needs children in mainstream classes as far as possible while other schools admit only those with special educational needs.

For this reason, expat parents looking for good-quality special needs education should be thorough in their research. The ideal is to find the best fit between the school and the child – one that can meet their particular needs and has the right experience and resources. Local special needs associations are a good place to find recommendations and learn more about the system.

Some specialist providers include the Jockey Club Sarah Roe School which offers special needs education for children of all ages with severe learning difficulties, and the Child Development Centre, a charity which offers a full range of early educational programmes, assessments and therapies for children with special needs. 

Shannon Young Our Expat Expert

Shannon is an American teacher and writer currently living in Hong Kong. She writes a book and travel blog about her reading adventures, and she is working on a travel memoir about the year she found herself unexpectedly alone in HK. She likes fencing, traveling and coffee shops.