Question in Schools

Question : What should I look for when I select an international school for my child in Hong Kong?

Answer from Anne Murphy, expert in Schools

For a family considering relocating to Hong Kong, ensuring your child is placed in the right school can be very stressful, competitive and complicated. One of the biggest decisions facing any newly arrived expatriate with a young family is where to send your children to school. As many children arrive with very little knowledge of Putonghua or Cantonese, the only option is to join the competition for the sought-after places in the international schooling system. Popular international schools are at full capacity in lower grades, and waitlists can be extremely long—some schools advise not to even submit applications because chances of acceptance are not possible. Hong Kong private international schools vary greatly in the curriculum, teaching style and admissions process. Some schools rank student applicants by their race or whether they already have a sibling at the school, and others prioritize applicants by the date they submit their application. Besides numerous admission processes, most schools in Hong Kong require applicants to take an entrance test in English and Mathematics, as well as secondary school students are also expected to partake in an oral interview.
The following are some key notes to help parents make the right choices when relocating to Hong Kong.
Curriculum Choices: Most parents find a school that offers a similar curriculum that matches their child’s school in their home country– such as a French family looking for ‘Le Lycée Français International’, and an Australian considering the Australian International School. In reality there are numerous choices available – choosing a new school with a new curriculum could lead to a very exciting change and experience for the kids both socially and academically.
For example, considering a bilingual school that offers an international curriculum – might be a wonderful educational opportunity for a child. These types of schools mix an international curriculum in English with a strong level of Putonghua language and Chinese culture.
IB (International Baccalaureate) schools offer a variety of IB programs—starting with PYP (3 to 11-year-olds) to MYP (11-16-year-olds). After which, to the IB Diploma Programme designed for 17 to 19-year-olds. The IB diploma is now highly recognized at many universities around the world. British curriculum schools offer a modified English National Curriculum, IGCSE and the A-Levels or Cambridge Pre-U Qualification. Some schools even mix the curriculum programs. Some offer IGCSE for early secondary school students, followed by the IB Diploma Programme, BTEC Diplomas (Business and Technology Education Council) or American AP Courses (Advanced Placements). This flexibility to mix and match in an international environment leads to a unique education and caters for all types of learners with varied talents and interests.
Language Opportunities: One of the greatest opportunities for children living in Hong Kong is the chance to learn Chinese and acquire a strong understanding and knowledge of Chinese culture. A home with the ability to speak Chinese can seriously broaden a child’s horizons and future academic and career opportunities. Mostly all international preschools offer Chinese classes; some offer bilingual programmes and others full immersion Chinese programmes. Many bilingual international schools exist in Hong Kong with the medium of teaching being 50% in English and 50% in Chinese. The competition for such schools is quite severe. Early entry, however, is possible once a strategic plan is in place from when a child is young; it would be difficult for a child with no knowledge of Chinese to be accepted if applying later in the Primary or Secondary years. In this case, it is also possible to choose a school that offers Chinese as a second language and Chinese cultural classes after school. Besides Chinese, most international schools also offer modern European languages such as French, German and Spanish. It is common for IB Diploma students to select one of these languages or Chinese as Language B for their exams. When picking a school, it is vital to ask about the languages that students select and the grades achieved in public exams.
Extra-Curricular Activities: In general, most of the international schools offer an array of extra-curricular activities. It’s important that these activities should be apparent as you walk around a school. There might be football on the school field, plays in the school theater or individual lessons in the Music room. Take notice of the notice boards: ask yourself whether they are current and if there is a wide variety of choices. Also, discover what culture opportunities are there for the children? Will they go on field trips? Are children encouraged to engage in community service? Ask for a timetable of extra‐curricular activities and find out how many students play a sport or learn an instrument. It is just as important to read the school's newsletter on their website for news of academic and extra-curricular successes, individual achievements, school play reviews or school trips.
There are many additional variables to take into consideration, questions that may be more important to some parents than others. For example, are you more interested in an academic school or a holistic school? Is a religious affiliated school important to you? The response to all these questions depends entirely on the personal preferences of the parents choosing the school.
With so many international schools in Hong Kong to choose from, you are assured to find a school that meets most of your standards. Take some time to list any other factors that are important to you. Then start doing your research!
A list of international school can be found on: www.itseducation.asia/links/its_schools_hk.html#international

Anne Murphy - Expert in Schools

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