Public Schools Guide

The Hong Kong Government is committed to providing nine years of free education (from age 6 to 15) for all children, regardless of their residential status. Although both English and Chinese are spoken in most public schools, the primary language of tuition is Chinese and the availability of well-spoken English is, in reality, very limited. While Hong Kong has literally hundreds of public primary and secondary schools, public schools will not be suitable for families who wish their children to be educated to the equivalent level of a western school curriculum.

The Admission Procedure for Public (Chinese Instruction) Local Schools

The application procedure for government-run or government-funded schools depends on the age of the child. Children aged over 5.5 months can apply for a place in a public-run school via the central admission system, known as Primary One Admission. Where you live in Hong Kong does not dictate which school your child must attend. Parents will complete an application form and indicate their choice of schools in order of preference.

The EMB then makes the allocation of places. There is strong competition for the best schools. A full list of schools can be found on the Education Bureau website.

This list contains profiles that detail the performance of each school and can thus be useful in making decisions pertaining to which school to apply for. Full details of the admission process can be found on the Education Bureau website.

Secondary-level places are administered via the Secondary School Places Allocation system. Within this system places are allocated according to student’s past grades in three examinations (the second term in Primary Five, the first and second terms of Primary Six). This then puts each child into a band which in turn determines what school a child will be offered. Profiles for Hong Kong’s public secondary schools can be found on the CHSC website.

The Admission Procedure at ESF (English Schools Foundation) Schools

If you wish to enroll your child in an ESF school (ESF schools are subsidized by the Hong Kong government), you have to fill in an online application form for the current and the following academic year. Online applications for ESF admissions usually open on the first of September and the application period stays open all month. Any applications received after the 30th of September are considered late and put on the waiting list according to the date it was received. Applicants are allowed to submit only one application per student and to only the school located in their residential zone.

Since the medium of instruction at ESF schools is English, students are expected to be adequately proficient in the language. The admission process involves an interview and/or assessment and places are only offered to successful applicants subject to availability. Candidates are prioritized according to the date at which their applications were received. Further, they are divided on their language abilities into Category 1 and Category 2. Children classified as Category 1 are prioritized over Category 2.

Category One
Children who speak English as their first or alternative language, but cannot not speak Cantonese and/or read and write Chinese characters.

Category Two
Children who speak Chinese and can gain admittance to the local system but who also meet ESF’s entrance requirements.

The ESF schools follow a sibling and parent preference policy and also give priority to children who are attending ESF international kindergartens, are children of ESF employees or are former ESF students who are now returnees to Hong Kong.

Current Fees at ESF Schools

ESF’s tuition fees for the academic year 2013/14 are as follows:-

Primary Schools (Primary 1 to 6) – HK$ 70,000 paid over 10 months

Secondary Schools (Year 7 to 11) – HK$ 101,400 paid over 10 months

Secondary Schools (Year 12 to 13) – HK$ 106,300 paid over 10 months

Besides the above fees, a deposit amount has to be paid for a primary and secondary school place and this amount is HK$10,000 for a primary place and HK$16,000 for a secondary school place. A refundable capital levy (RCL) is also expected at the rate of HK$25,000 per student with relief being offered for the third and any other subsequent child enrolled in an ESF school.This RCL is then reduced to HK$10,000.

A deposit payment is also required when students transfer from an ESF primary school to an ESF secondary school. However the RCL is paid only once and is not expected to be paid on transfer.

Students who would like to reserve a school place for the following school year are required to make a non-refundable advance payment of September’s fees as surety.

Details and information about the entire process can be found on the website of the English Schools Foundation,

Some of the most highly regarded schools in the ESF system include:

Th Bradbury School(Primary)
43C Stubbs Road, Hong Kong
Phone: 2574 8249 Fax:2834 7880

The Kennedy School(Primary)
19 Sha Wan Drive
Pokfulam, Hong Kong
Phone: 2855 0711
Fax: 2817 7471

Island School (Secondary)
20 Borrett Road Hong Kong
Phone: 2524 7135