Opening Pandora’s Box: Thinking About the Schooling System in Hong Kong

Education is the most valuable gift we can give our children.  It is the number one topic of conversation amongst Hong Kong parent residents, followed by cost of housing. We all know that competition to get into school is intense. And yet from the beginning, there are two things clear in the Hong Kong school search saga:

  1. Schools information is scattered and difficult to collect and
  2. Children must pass various admissions assessments, in preparation for which many children as young as 2 are ‘prepped’ or ‘tutored’ . It is a daunting environment, no doubt. But must it be so?

Where’s the information?

Until recently, it was impossible to get interactive schools data. Information was limited to static lists, mostly in print, some in digital format. While helpful at the very base level, parents still ended up pen and paper in hand, making sub-lists, and charts, and tables just to get an overview of schools operating in Hong Kong.  Clearly there was a need for a searchable database where parents could effortlessly collect, compare, and collate information.  Being able to search by various criteria, following the ‘advanced’ or ‘refine’ search model, would be even better. This at least would allow parents to have an easy, quick, thorough overview of school data.

Are the admissions assessments contrived?

In Hong Kong, many children start to get ‘prepped’ or ‘tutored’ starting at age 2 or even earlier in areas such as language, social interaction, communication and ‘interviewing’ skills in order that they can pass school admissions requirements. And while many disagree with such early intervention (at least in principle), many do feel obliged to subject their children to it, for fear that otherwise their children may fail admissions testing and interviews.

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But let’s sit back and consider:  do we really need our children, starting at age 4 or (or even 7, gasp!) to be completely confident, mature beings able to calculate, read and write perfectly, and of all things, talk about interesting matters to complete strangers? What young child is naturally as literate, mature, and communicative as what many schools seem to demand?  Testing such competencies seems a little bit contrived.

And what about newcomers?

Newcomers especially are in for a shock because of these two issues. Those parents who come from abroad who may not understand the system or where they should look to find information. They have sifted through the mostly static lists of schools, selected a few to apply to, and expect the admissions testing to go reasonably well. What a shock when they find out that apparently their children are not ‘up to par’.  And they find themselves scrambling about to find out, somehow, what exactly the expectations are (because of course, schools won’t tell you), and how these schools really are (outside of the static data).

Starting over

Let’s start again. Education is the most valuable gift we can give our children. We as parents have the responsibility to make informed decisions about it, and we should have the right to access as much information about it as easily as possible. That means getting the most information about schools, from as many sources, as efficiently as possible.  Data should be searchable, and comparable. Insights should be made public. Parents should have access to open platforms where ‘insider’ experiences about schools can be accessed constructively. Sharing information, and recognizing the value of our insights, even if we are not professional educators, is hugely constructive.

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Most agree that testing toddlers and children is of little long-term value.  What a 3 year old knows or has been coached into knowing is really no indication at all of their potential or competence. The admissions system now, at least in the pre-primary and primary years, is neither sustainable nor healthy. There must be another way in which the admissions process can be made a little bit more meaningful.  At the very least, there needs to be open discussion about it.

It is time to voice our needs. It is time that we as parents help in transforming the schooling system into one that is more open and transparent; one that truly values each and every child for their untapped potentials; one where parents are recognized to provide valuable insight.  Education in Hong Kong costs a fortune.  And the cost of education to our children’s social, psychological, and academic development is priceless. We cannot afford the status quo. The costs are too high.

Tigermom logo was created out of a passion to give parents a voice in their children’s education, and to drive change towards improvement.  It is a schools information site that provides a searchable and comparable schools database, an open platform for parents to rate and review schools from their personal experiences, and an online discussion platform  categorized by school or topic.  The team publishes weekly short articles that aim to inform and provoke discussion. also provides useful resource documents where information has been simplified for ease of comprehension. To see for yourself please visit at and help create a community of engaged parents willing to be heard.

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