Hong Kong’s 8 Most Popular Bilingual Schools

Continuing our series examining on the opportunities in Hong Kong for bilingual education, here’s the scoop on eight of the most popular schools.

If you have decided that you’d like your child to be bilingual (Chinese – Cantonese and/or Putonghua – and English), the obvious choice is a DSS or a ‘local’ private school.  For the purposes of this discussion, we mean ‘bilingual’ also to mean ‘biliterate’ in that the objective is to be able to speak, listen, read and write in Chinese.

DSS schools are funded by the government and their mission is to produce children who are ‘bi-literate and trilingual’, so they teach in Cantonese, as well as Putonghua and English. Also, the Putonghua and the English is often taught by non-native speakers. We’ll explore more about these schools in Part 2, but for now we focus on bilingualism to mean Putonghua and English since many parents are…not interested in Cantonese!

Many parents nowadays place more emphasis on Putonghua (Mandarin). Perhaps they are not Chinese, they are from the Mainland or they feel that Cantonese is easy to pick up anyway. They also prefer a more international style of teaching, perhaps according to an international curriculum too.

Very few schools teach in Putonghua and English, without much Cantonese. Even fewer do this according to an international curriculum. Nevertheless, this is increasingly what parents want and the few schools that fit their needs are extremely competitive.

Here’s the skinny on eight of the most popular:

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International Schools

Chinese International School (CIS) 漢基國際學校 | Braemar Hill

CIS is a well-established school and the first school to teach an international curriculum using English and Putonghua (50/50). They have only 88 places available at the entry level of 4 years old (by 31 Aug) and it’s very competitive. CIS is a school with a $75,000
depreciating “debenture”.

Singapore International School (SIS) 新加坡国际学校(香 港)| Aberdeen

As the name suggests, this school is designed for Singaporeans and is guided closely by the Singapore education philosophy. Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents are entitled to a fee subsidy. Whilst the Putonghua is strong, the written Chinese is simplified characters. HK$200,000 debenture (HK$120,000 for Singaporeans).

Private Schools

Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA) 滬江維多利亞學校 | Aberdeen

This school is part of the Victoria Educational Organisation where children may attend playgroup and kindergarten from 8 months old. Children attending the preschool will have priority admissions to VSA. The approach in this school is to have two class teachers in each classroom, one teaching in Putonghua/Mandarin and the other teaching in English. Class sizes are 28 (likely reducing in size over the next few years). All teachers are native speakers. The school is fully accredited for IB. It is a through-train (meaning it has
primary and secondary) and the campus – opened in 2008 – is impressive. Optional debenture – $500,000.

Independent Schools Foundation Academy (ISF) 弘立書院 | Cyberport

This school celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013. A unique approach where the children start at 5 years old (K3) learning 30% in English and 70% in Putonghua. All teachers are native speakers. Very small classes. At Foundation Level (K3), 150 places are available (10 classes of 15). At Grade 1, 30 more places are available as the class size increases to 18. The balance of English/Putonghua adjusts throughout primary until it reaches 50/50 at the end of primary and the Putonghua component declines throughout secondary as the English is increased. The campus is impressive and in the midst of development projects to add a new block and a swimming pool. Through-train with a $200,000 refundable debenture or an annual levy.

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Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau (PLK CKY) 保良局蔡繼有學校 | Kowloon

A through train school, established in 2002, occupying a beautiful new campus in Kowloon. The school fees here are reasonable and the students are mainly from Cantonese speaking families. For that reason, the school uses Cantonese in P1 to teach Chinese. Thereafter, more is taught in Putonghua. The English teaching is strong, all taught by native English speaking teachers. No debenture. Starts at age 6 (P1).

Kingston International School 京斯敦國際學校 | Kowloon

A small private school operating out of a small campus comprising of a few houses joined together. The IBPYP program (International Bacculaureate Primary Years Program) is taught in English and Putonghua. Small classes with a maximum of 22, although spaces
exist. Although this is not a through-train, children receive priority admissions at International College Hong Kong for secondary. No debenture.

St Stephen’s College Preparatory School 聖士提反書院附屬小學 | Stanley

A well-renowned school. Officially, the languages used are English and Putonghua. However, similar to PLK CKY, the vast majority of students and teachers share their native tongue of Cantonese so it is the ‘playground language’ and will creep into the classroom
too. Local curriculum. No debenture.

Kiangsu Chekiang Primary School 蘇浙小學| North Point

This is the first school to use Putonghua to teach and the main language used. And note, this is not to be confused with Kiangsu Chekiang International School (KCIS) which is very different! This school has a very “local” flavour (follows the local curriculum) and occupies an old campus without facilities. On the other hand, the school fees are very low and the Chinese program is very strong. The English – up to an hour a day – is taught by nonnative teachers. The school does have a kindergarten section and children do receive
priority in the admissions process.

See also
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Ruth Benny, Head Girl of www.topschools.hk

Ruth is a long-time Hong Kong resident, former educator of local students and school teachers and parent of two children. With 18 years experience of the education system in Hong Kong, she thoroughly understands its complexity and fierce competition.

Ruth established Top Schools HK in 2012 to save parents time, stress and money in the school search process.

She has placed children in top schools including ISF, Victoria Shanghai Academy, Canadian International School, Hong Kong International School and ESF schools.

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