What North Americans call a preschool or nursery school is usually called a kindergarten in Hong Kong.
This market is highly competitive in Hong Kong, with the pre-primary sector consisting solely of privately run institutions. Parents in Hong Kong send their children to playgroups and nursery schools at quite a young age; some kindergartens even cater to toddlers below the age of 2. The demand for kindergarten teachers as a result is high, but the quality of educators may vary.
“Local” (as opposed to international) preschools mostly use Cantonese as the medium of instruction; some run bilingual (English/Cantonese or English/Mandarin) or even trilingual sessions (English/Cantonese/Mandarin).
School buses are a common mode of transport in Hong Kong, even for children as young as 3. If your child attends a school that is far away, then you will most likely need to sign up for this service.
Under the Hong Kong government’s Kindergarten Education Scheme, parents of children attending nursery (K1, aka 3-year-olds), lower (K2) and upper classes (K3) in local nonprofit kindergartens receive direct subsidies for preschool fees. Eligibility and application details are available on the Education Bureau website.
There is a wide range of independent international kindergartens in Hong Kong, each with its own admissions policy.
Some take children as young as 18 months in classes where a parent or guardian is also in attendance; others require children to be at least three years old to enroll.
There are also private preschools and playgroups. Those run by nonprofit organizations may require regular parent participation. Large residential complexes and housing estates may have their own playgroups; in these instances there is likely to be a kindergarten nearby.
The teaching method at most international preschools is “learn-through-play,” although some adopt a more structured approach. Nearly all preschools in Hong Kong offer summer programs.
The teaching method at most international preschools is “learn-through-play,” although some adopt a more structured approach.
Most kindergartens are not affiliated with primary schools, although it is increasingly popular for international primary schools to add a preschool section (sometimes called the “reception year”). Those that have include Chinese International School, Canadian International School, French International School, Hong Kong Academy, Hong Kong International School, Kellett School, Yew Chung International School, Victoria Shanghai Academy, Discovery Bay International School and International Montessori School, and notably, ESF (see International Schools).
During upticks in the coronavirus pandemic, the EDB’s decisions to suspend in-person classes apply to international and local kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. “Pre-nursery” classes (for two-year-olds) are classified as Child Care Centres and fall under the jurisdiction of the Social Welfare Department.