English schools in Hong Kong


There are two types of schools for English-speaking kids, the government subsidized ESF schools and the private International schools.

ESF has only two criteria:
1) Are you a native English speaker and
2) do you live in the cachement area for that school.

It’s basically everyone’s backup plan if they don’t get into the International schools of their choice and honestly the quality isn’t really that bad. It’s comparable to a very good government school in the UK or Australia.

You apply next September and they will route your application to the school for your area automatically. Come January or so you’ll be asked to bring your kid to school for an “assessment” where they play a few games, talk to a teacher, count, sing a song, etc., primarily to ensure they speak English. If there are spaces available, they are offered a place.

The International schools function somewhat similarly, but there are different sets of priorities for entry to different schools. Here is a list in a rough order of academics / popularity

Hong Kong International School (American-system)
German Swiss International School (IB/British system for English. Priority to German passports for German-language system)
Chinese International School (Mandarin/English)
Singapore International School (Mandarin/English–priority to Singapore passports)
Canadian International School (gorgeous facilities–probably best facilities in HK)
Independent Schools Foundation (Mandarin/English–very nice facilities)
Kellett School (#1 in the British school system)
French International School (French / English)
Australian International School (Kowloon-side)

and many, many others.


For each of these schools your daughter will have an “assessment/interview” to ensure that she speaks English but also that she is “academically ready for school” (which personally I think is a crock but that’s the world we live in here). If she passes the assessment, it then falls into the schools priority system. Each school is different but generally you see things like this:

Sibling Preference–older kid at school.
Debenture holder — does the company hold a debenture ‘ensuring’ admission of a student to that school. $350k-$500k and even more ridiculous numbers on the private/secondary market.
Date of application – When did the student first apply.
Passport of Child — Some schools give priority to “their” nationals
Academic ability
Politics / Lobbying

Schools like German Swiss, Kellett, and the Canadian have long wait lists stretching back a few years. I think the Kellett school (British) quoted us 3 years or so, which means people are basically applying while their kids are still crawling in diapers.