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Hong Kong: Types of International Schools

Are you wondering whether a Hong Kong international school or a local school is the right choice for your child? InterNations has all the information you need on advantages and disadvantages of attending a Hong Kong international school, types of curricula, and everything else you need to know.
Hong Kong's international schools vary in terms of curriculum and educational program.

There are about 50 international schools in Hong Kong offering various curricula and international education programs. The Hong Kong Education Bureau provides a lot of information on international education in Hong Kong. International schools offer the national curriculum and -diploma of certain countries, and/or the internationally recognized International Baccalaureate degree.

National Curricula

You will find many schools that work with the British system and offer the International Certificate of Secondary Education and the UK’s A-level exams. The English Schools Foundation is currently running 21 schools (including four kindergartens) in Hong Kong. Several international schools use the American curriculum and prepare their students for US colleges. Furthermore, there are several schools affiliated with non-English speaking countries:

These schools usually have one English section and another one where the respective national language is used in the classroom. Students who choose the latter option can take the national exams for the respective secondary-school diplomas, such as the French Baccalauréat or the German Abitur.

All international schools have Chinese classes as part of their curriculum. However, the academic rigor of such classes differs from school to school and students may not learn as much about Hong Kong culture and social etiquette. There are only a few schools that can be considered bilingual. The Chinese International School has a good reputation for being truly bilingual, particularly in the lower grades.

International Baccalaureate

A popular alternative to studying the national curriculum of a certain country is the International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB is an international university-entrance exam, which is recognized by universities in over 143 countries worldwide. It was created by a non-profit organization in Switzerland in 1968. Originally aimed solely at children of diplomatic staff, it is nowadays open to everyone. Almost 3,500 schools worldwide offer the IB diploma, 25 of which are located in Hong Kong.

The IB diploma is equivalent to a high school diploma received after twelve years of full-time education. However, only the last two years have to be completed at an IB school under the IB curriculum. This curriculum consists of six subject groups: mathematics, arts, natural sciences, social sciences, and two languages. Students study three of these subject groups at a standard level and the other three at a higher academic level with more teaching hours per week. At the end of the program, students undergo written examinations, which are marked by external IB examiners.

It is important to note that the IB is unfortunately not formally recognized as a university entrance qualification in China. However, IB diploma students have successfully entered Chinese universities on the basis of individual negotiation.

Other IB Programs

Furthermore, the IB also offers two programs for younger students: The “Primary Years Program” (PYP) is geared towards children between 3 and 12, and the “Middle Years Program” (MYP) is aimed at students between 11 and 16 years of age. Many Hong Kong schools offer these IB programs in addition to the diploma program. However, they are not a prerequisite to enter the diploma program.

 

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