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Parent stories: Hong Kong 2

Karen and her husband moved back to Hong Kong from Singapore four years ago when their children were eight, six and two years old. The two oldest children had been at the Canadian International School in Singapore. Karen had lived in Hong Kong for many years previously and considers it home. She talks to Winter’s…

 

Did you have any particular concerns about finding school places in Hong Kong?

The major concern for anyone moving to Hong Kong and needing school places is the lack of them. It is extremely hard to get children into your school of choice; there are huge waiting lists and you often need a corporate/personal debenture to secure a place.

What were you looking for from a school?

I was looking for three things in particular:

1) A school that would have places for all three children as I didn’t want the problem of dealing with three sets of school dates, three different school runs, etc!

2) An IB programme.

3) Something close to where we live (not on the Island but out in the New Territories).

I also wanted a school that came highly recommended, with a strong culture and ethos, and small class sizes.

Sai Kung Waterfront Park, New Territories. Photograph: Tksteven/Wikimedia

Sai Kung Waterfront Park, New Territories. Photograph: Tksteven/Wikimedia

"...I wanted a school with a strong culture and ethos, and small class sizes..."

Were there many to choose from?

There really wasn’t a lot of choice. As I said, the problem is getting a place in a good school. I was lucky as I had a friend at the time whose children were in a school that seemed to fit the bill. She helped me to get a place by encouraging the school to accept my kids.

Is it easy to find the information you need when selecting a school?

There are lots of helpful sources including school websites, online chat boards and other parents. The schools were also pretty good at answering any questions I had.

The Chambers of Commerce, international property agencies, and the leading banks also have a lot of information about moving to Hong Kong.

Were you able to do any school visits?

We only visited the one school we identified as I didn't know it; the other international schools were all familiar to me from my previous time in Hong Kong. I think that it is vital to do school visits.

Young students at Renaissance College (ESF)

Young students at Renaissance College (ESF)

What was the application process like once you'd made your choice? 

The application process is very easy. There is one standard form. The same information is required for all three children. I understand from parents of kids in other schools that it was the same for them.

How has it worked out for you and the children?  Did the school meet your expectations?

We've been very happy with our choice. The school is only primary so our son only did one year in Hong Kong before moving to board at Marlborough College in Malaysia. Our middle daughter has now left and has moved to an ESF (English Schools Foundation) school which she is loving. Our youngest is still at the school and has another three years to go and we don't have any plans to move her. The school has exceeded our expectations.

Any tips for parents wanting to help their children cope with moving to a new country and settling into a new environment?

Having moved a number of times I think it's essential parents remember that the children have their own stresses and they will also be absorbing yours. We now try to make the move as seamless as possible by getting the house set up quickly so they have their things around them. We take them on a couple of trips to wherever we're moving to as a 'treat' so they get a sense of where we're going (particularly important they go with you for the school visits). This also helps to build their excitement…

"...children have their own stresses and they will also be absorbing yours..."

Outdoor concert at Clearwater Bay School (ESF)

Outdoor concert at Clearwater Bay School (ESF)

Any final tips for parents?

Yes, I think one of the best sources of information is through social media – ask about local 'communities' that you can connect into to get insights and inside information on schools, where to live, what to do. We have an online community called Sai Kung Marketplace and one called Sai Kung Mummies – there's also Hong Kong Mummies and others. They can be used for all sorts of things and are incredibly useful for anyone thinking about living here.

Thank you for sharing your experience of finding a school in Hong Kong, Karen. It sounds like it’s worked out very well for everyone.

Top image of Po Toi O, Sai Kung, courtesy of iStock.  

Images of Renaissance College and Clearwater Bay School courtesy of ESF.

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