Hong Kong’s education system is similar to that of the United Kingdom, although both English and American systems are common at the higher education levels. Parents place enormous emphasis on preparation for entrance exams, and schools tend to have strict discipline policies and dress codes that require the wearing of uniforms.
The government provides nine years of free, compulsory education; six years in primary school, beginning at age 6, and three years in junior secondary, beginning at age 12. Primary education includes core subjects such as Chinese, English, science, mathematics, social studies, physical education, music and art and crafts. The medium of instruction in most public schools is Cantonese, with English taught as a second language.
Parents who want English as the medium of instruction for their children usually choose an international school or the government-subsidized English Schools Foundation (ESF), which consists of 21 schools throughout Hong Kong. ESF schools adhere to the British curriculum and are usually less expensive than the international schools as they are subsidized by the Hong Kong government. However, they only accept students who are residents of Hong Kong, and a valid visa must accompany applications. About 70% of their students are local Hong Kong children, and priority is given to students from non-Chinese speaking families who cannot be educated in public schools.