Things to Consider
Hong Kong offers 12 years of free education in public schools for children between the ages of 6 and 18, irrespective of sex, ethnic origin, religious or ethical belief, family status and physical or mental ability.
Additionally, the government offers subsidies for preschool education under the Kindergarten Education Scheme (although not all preschools participate in the scheme) (see Live > Schools > Preschools and Kindergartens).
The Hong Kong government’s Education Bureau oversees all of the local public schools. In addition to primary and secondary schools, there are also schools for special needs students and for non-Chinese speaking students. The government also subsidizes full-time courses offered by the Vocational Training Council for secondary students upon finishing Grade 9 to further their studies.
Permanent residents of Hong Kong have the right to enroll their children in local public schools which provide medium of instruction in either English or Chinese. Parents who wish to have their children immersed in Chinese language and culture may opt for a local public school, but not without careful consideration of the challenges, especially if the child is a non-Chinese speaker. Age may be a determining factor here. Very young children usually have an easier time assimilating into a new environment and picking up a new language. Older children may find it more difficult, particularly if Chinese isn’t spoken at home.
Parents who wish to have their children immersed in Chinese language and culture may opt for a local public school, but not without careful consideration of the challenges, especially if the child is a non-Chinese speaker.
The curriculum in local schools is academically rigorous, with a heavy focus on tests and examinations. Many parents put their children through private tutoring to make up for any academic shortfalls and to be more competitive in school. The Chinese language, in all its forms, is known to be difficult to learn for all children, and generally involves a lot of memorization in the process.
For non-Chinese speaking parents, it can be a challenge to stay connected with a local school as notices and announcements are issued in Chinese.
In addition to the heavy loads of homework typically assigned at local schools, non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students face the challenge of learning in a foreign language. For non-Chinese speaking parents, it can be a challenge to stay connected with a local school as notices and announcements are issued in Chinese. Some local schools have made changes to accommodate students coming from non-Chinese families, sending home English versions of notices and offering Chinese language classes to assist their growing non-Chinese speaking student population.
- The Cantonese School Parents’ Group on Facebook is a highly active forum for parents who have chosen or are considering local Cantonese medium schools for their children. Group members can ask for advice on topics like which schools are NCS-friendly, which are considered “happy” schools (i.e., not too much homework), and handling cultural differences.
- The EDB also conducts two induction programs (one part-time totaling 60 hours; the other full-time for six months) to support newly arrived non-Chinese speaking children aged 6 to 18 by helping them acquire language skills and teaching them about the local culture and education system.