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Private Schools for Expats in Hong Kong

Submitted: July 2013

Private schools (commonly referred to as ‘Independent Schools’ or ‘Non-state Schools’) are reputed for the quality of holistic education. It is a common perception that students who attend private schools generally perform better on exams than those who don’t, and are more likely to proceed onto tertiary education. This is due to private schools providing a more competitive environment, greater freedom in curriculum construct and resource allocation all backed by the ability to attract higher performing socially-advantaged students . In Hong Kong, these schools fall into three major categories, namely:

  1. Direct Subsidy Schemes – these are private schools which have shown a significantly high level of performance, as such the government provides subsidies in order to enhance the quality of education being offered. The aim of this however is to promote a strong private school sector; complete autonomy over curriculum, fees and entrance requirements are retained by the school . There are many talks by the general public in Hong Kong about the fairness of this system, as it felt that taxpayer money is being used to subsidize education for the better off families and expatriates . For general information on each of the schools which function on this basis, the following link may prove valuable: https://www.educationuk.org.hk/partnership/BC_-_indpt_school_report_final_formatted-KF2_final.pdf

  1. Private Independent Schools – these facilitate private education but are supported by the government through various grants. A private school setting is retained however with freedom of selecting teachers, fees, curriculum and the medium of instruction. These are schools welcome international students; however they must enrol at least 70% of local children .

  1. Private Local Schools – These are fully privatized schools, however mostly local students are enrolled with the main teaching medium for most of these schools being Cantonese.

Furthermore, some independent schools offer the option of boarding. This is primarily at the secondary education level with varying factors determining which students are offered occupancy in the limited spaces available. Many schools consider students’ academic and disciplinary track record when reviewing applications for boarding . Before selecting this option for child/ward, it is important to enquire as to whether many students are boarding to ensure that on weekends and short holidays he/she is not lonely. Some private schools which have the option of boarding are listed in the following link: https://hongkong.geoschools.com/advanced-search/search-results?order=alpha&query=any&criteria=2&jr_schooltype=private_boarding

Private schools, though some may receive subsidy form the government, are ultimately self-governing and as such are not compelled to follow the local curriculum suggested by the Education Bureau (EDB). However, Direct Subsidy Schemes, despite autonomy over curriculum, are expected to prepare students for local examinations (Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination ). In addition to this, the quality of education offered by private schools can be assured as they are supervised and inspected by Regional Education Offices which is an extension of the Education Bureau .

As it relates to admissions, different policies are employed by each school given that they have autonomy over whom it chooses to accept. Most schools however will conduct a formal interview in the selection process.

The fees charged by private schools vary significantly. This is especially so when subsidies and grants are provided by the government. The average cost associated each grade level for some Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools for the academic year 2009 – 2010 are provided in the following link.


The cost may have significantly varied from the time this list was generated, hence contacting the school still serves as the best option. Similarly for other private school, seeing that they are able to set their standard fees, this varies greatly. Additional expenses should also be factored in - uniform, sport equipment, school lunches and other extra-curricular activities.



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