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 focuses on rote learning and frequent examinations. The government has made reforms to the curriculum in recent years, though, in an attempt to create a more well-rounded and less pressurised school experience.

Expat families usually opt to enrol their children at an international school with a more familiar curriculum and language of instruction. Fortunately, the diverse nature of Hong Kong’s expat community ensures that there are many international school options.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

Public schools in Hong Kong are fully funded by the government and offer free education to all children, including expats. 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 with no existing knowledge of Cantonese.

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.

There’s a wide selection of private schools to choose from in Hong Kong, many of which teach the national curriculum through a religious lens.

Expat parents should look into Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools. These are private schools that receive a grant from the government but are able to set their own curriculum, fees and entry requirements. However, DSS schools are bound to adhere to certain national standards with regard to facilities and the qualifications of teachers. DSS schools also write the same final examinations as schools following the national curriculum. Fees can be high, depending on the school, but are generally still much lower than international schools.

Cantonese is the language of instruction for most DSS schools, though some teach partly or entirely in English. A common approach is to arrange class groups according to language proficiency, with some groups being taught in Cantonese and others in English. Some subjects – such as Chinese Language, Chinese History and Chinese Literature – are more likely to be taught in Cantonese only.

There are many international schools in Hong Kong. These teach the curriculum of their founding country or other globally-recognised programmes like the International Baccalaureate (IB). The American and British curricula are taught by many international schools, but other countries are also represented, including Canada, Australia, France and Germany. The language of instruction will generally be English or the home language of the school’s country of origin.

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. That said, parents sending their children to international schools can expect a good return on their investment in the form of excellent facilities, highly qualified teachers and smaller class sizes.

Because of the large expat population in Hong Kong, international schools are often oversubscribed. For this reason, it's important to start the application process as early as possible.