In Collaboration With Tutor Time
You and your child are finally ready for kindergarten. It’s a huge first step and can definitely be intimidating. After all, it is your kid’s first foray into the educational system and lays the foundation for their future successes.
In Hong Kong, kindergartens cater to students between 3 and 6 years old, whereas kids under 3 years hold can attend a child care centre (CCC). Kindergarten teacher are required to possess a Qualified Kindergarten Teacher (QKT) qualification or its equivalent. There are a lot of options parents can choose from. Curriculums, length of school day or class size are among the most common criteria parents will look after. Due to a large international community, the Hong Kong schooling system offers various types of kindergartens.
Navigating this complex landscape, can feel like a lot, so we have compiled advices to find the right kindergarten in Hong Kong for your little one(s).
Private or public kindergarten
The first considerations should be your budget and the availability of schools in your area. This can help inform whether you should look into private or public kindergartens. Private schools, while more expensive, may also offer lower student to teacher ratios along with more flexible and personalized content and teaching methods.
Public kindergartens in Hong Kong are non-profit making (NPM). Although they still may have minimal charges, the Hong Kong government offers a Kindergarten Education Scheme (KES), a fee remission, for parents who require financial assistance. You can consult the eligibility criteria here. Public kindergarten often have a more standardized curriculum, thus preparing your child for elementary school through emphasis on the core subjects.
In Hong Kong, most international kindergartens are private, so if you are looking for English as the primary language, you may need to shell out a bit more. For instance, a private kindergarten like Tutor Time, which we’ve introduced before, could also offer a greater diversity in student population, developing your child’s social awareness.
Whole-day or half-day kindergarten
Another key aspect to consider is how long your child should be in kindergarten. Most kindergarten in Hong Kong offer both whole-day (WD) and half-day programs (HD), and there are benefits and drawbacks of both.
As most parents work full-time themselves and have limited child care facilities, full-day kindergarten can offer a blessing in disguise. It also prepares the child for life in the “big school” as they are used to full days.
However, not all students are developmentally ready to be in school full-time, and it can take away time from other home-based enrichment activities. Ultimately, there is no one size fits all and this would be a personal decision based on your and your child’s needs.
Kindergarten education has developed and diversified leaps and bounds over the last 100 years, making finding the right fit for your child no easy feat. Curricula in Hong Kong can vary widely in terms of academics and teaching approach, which can impact not only your child’s development, but also the schools they are accepted into.
If you are keen for a certain curriculum during school, it is worth examining which kindergartens offer the same curriculum, thus providing continuity for your child. Some programmes include Montessori, International Baccalaureate, and of course the local curriculum in your country and state. Be sure to do research to understand the various types of education offered and decide based on your child’s needs.
Given the multinational and culturally rich environment of Hong Kong, kindergartens have several languages that they operate in, or offer classes that allow your child to pick up the language. “Bilingual” usually refers to writing Chinese and English, while “trilingual” usually includes spoken English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Moreover, there are kindergartens that offer classes in French, Spanish, German, Japanese and much more! Given the innumerable benefits of learning languages at a young age, a multi-language kindergarten is a great opportunity to help your child get a leg up from the start.
School community and additional services
Another imperative aspect of choosing your child’s kindergarten is learning more about the school community. The principal and teachers will be spending the most amount of time with your child, so a gut check is very helpful. Do you like them? Do they seem to have similar values to your family? Parents of course are another key component of the community, and they can provide great insight into the school. You can ask other parents questions such as ‘Is there anything I should know as a new parent?’, ‘How do you feel about the teachers and other parents?’ and ‘Do your kids enjoy school?’.
Additionally, it is important to consider class size and teacher to student ratio. While greater personal attention is always a positive, if your child needs some extra care, then this will be a very important point. There is research to suggest having smaller class sizes of below 20 kids in a classroom has a positive impact on student learning and performance. Similarly, a lower teacher to student ratio, around 1:10, is one of the most vital elements in early childhood education settings to predict future academic achievement. Thus, it is essential to consider not just the teachers’ expertise and education levels, but perhaps even more important to look at the student to teacher ratio.
Finally, a visit to prospective kindergartens is a must! It gives you an opportunity to observe the children, see the teachers in action, and of course see the amenities. Outside classroom areas such as playgrounds or art and music rooms are a good sign.
You can also examine the kind of resources they have, and how the kindergarten uses it. Is technology used in the teaching, and how is it used for teaching? Ultimately, the amenities are just a tool, but if a school has colourful displays of children’s work, it’s generally a great indicator of a positive atmosphere!