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Home > News > The different types of schools in Hong Kong and their languages of instruction

The different types of schools in Hong Kong and their languages of instruction

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There are mainly four different types of schools in Hong Kong recognized by the education bureau, they include public local schools(including aided schools), private schools, international schools, and English schools foundation (ESF) schools.

1. Public local schools

The majority of these schools are Chinese as a medium of instruction (CMI) schools and are generally subdivided into two types which are the government school and Grant school. The grant schools are owned and managed by Hong Kong charitable or religious bodies.

Both schools use the local curriculum as provided by the education bureau with Chinese(Cantonese) as a compulsory subject.

Although most public Hong Kong schools are CMI, a few others are also English as a medium of instruction (EMI). However, one thing is common; whichever medium of instruction (MOI) the school adopts will be used across every subject within the school.

Before choosing a public local school, you are left with two considerations. Do you want a school that follows the local curriculum or one that uses the international standard? Or is the school a CMI or EMI school?

2. Private schools

The private schools are not funded by Hong Kong's government or the educational sector. As such, they have the privilege and choice to decide whether to use English or Chinese/English and Chinese.

The majority of these private schools are completely EMI even though some of them adopt the Hong Kong curriculum for their students. Those who adopt the Hong Kong curriculum pay a lot of attention to ex-pat kids. They have some of the best English teachers to cater to English lessons.

3. International schools

For expatriates and a huge number of families who want their kids to attend an EMI school, there's no doubt that an international school is the best option. These schools are not controlled or regulated by the government in terms of curriculum and language options.

International schools have the complete right to decide student admission, tuition fees, and course content. They deliver curricula that are widely accepted in several countries, as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

The school may exist within Hong Kong but will not use the Hong Kong curriculum and language policy. However, language education is taken just as seriously as any other curricula within Hong Kong. International schools are innovative and use a more modern approach to learning. This helps to keep the students sharp, smart, and more competitive in foreign countries.

We will take a much clearer look at this type of school as we move on with the article.

4. English schools foundation (ESF) schools

The ESF is the single largest English medium school in Hong Kong. The school was created to create a liberal method of education without religious or racial concerns. Tuition fees in these schools are generally lower due to the subvention of the Hong Kong government to help educate English-speaking students who may not be able to afford the local schools.

At this stage in the Hong Kong education system where there are hardly any expectations of policy fine-tuning, indigenous Hong Kong people, as well as expatriates, can select a school for their kids without worrying about an imminent policy change.

Having considered the language options in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools, which mainly include the Mandarin, English, and Chinese (Cantonese) languages, let's now look at a more advanced and liberal option.

Are there benefits to international schools in Hong Kong?


Education in international schools in Hong Kong or any other part of the world will definitely have one thing in common and that is fewer restrictions from government policy on education.

Other amazing benefits of schooling your kids in international schools include:

1. Language of learning
International schools have the understanding that students learn better in their mother tongue or at least a well-spoken second language. This is why the language of learning and instruction is usually English. Since classes are conducted in the English language, it gives the students a higher chance to compete internationally with students from several other countries around the world.

Although the Chinese language, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, German, and more are offered in these schools, the largely adopted language of learning across the world is the English language.

primary and secondary school, rigorous curriculum primary school, family centred school, school's mission - provide accessible quality educationIn Hong Kong, classes may be taught in English but Chinese (Cantonese) and Mandarin (putonghua) are compulsory language subjects included in the curriculum. Aside from the fact that these language subjects are mandatory, they also help your child gain fluency and proficiency in languages that are highly sought after.

Children who have the Chinese Language as their mother tongue will not have any problems getting along in these schools since English is widely spoken and understood in Hong Kong.

At Invictus International School, for example, English is the major focus as subjects are taught in English. As a part of the IGCSE curriculum, English and English literature subjects are adopted and taught in secondary schools.

Invictus doesn't leave Mandarin and Cantonese out of the picture as these curricula are also available to help students develop proficiency in foreign language skills.

2. International curricula
These schools adopt curricula that are aimed at helping students attain a more global view of education. To give students a fuller grasp and competitive chance against top academia around the world, some international schools combine the curriculum of several education systems.

Notable mentions among some of the top curricula offered by some of the biggest international schools in the world include the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the Cambridge International A-Levels (Advanced Level) that prepare students for education in advanced institutions.

One great thing about international schools is that they give you a wide range of options to choose from.

Some families may decide to choose schools that are more tailored to their native languages or nationalities while others may choose schools with proficiency in their second language.

International schools in Hong Kong let you choose from options such as the Korean International School, and German Swiss International School.

3. Advanced modern facilities
Since the curriculum is more foreign-based, the facilities also have to meet international standards and that's exactly what these schools provide.

Students learn in an environment that promotes learning and helps them develop strong mental skills. Asides from the environment, students will also benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities at both primary and secondary levels that are meant to help them develop beyond the regular standard.

4. A better and self-curated grading system
Some parents might feel that the native grading system is somewhat stressful for children. There's too much being demanded from the students with very few positive effects to show for it.

These schools do not only take the kids through globally recognized curricula but also use a grading system that allows for creativity and mental ease.

Students are not made to take examinations that are beyond their mental capacity, resulting in several negative behavioural changes that may mar their confidence.

5. A wide range of extracurricular activities
International schools like Invictus International School believe that students don't get smarter by only doing homework. Co-curricular activities also improve a child's mental capacity while also serving as a coping mechanism in class.

Co-curricular activities allow students to develop their interests, satisfy their curiosity, and create lasting interpersonal relationships. These activities will also help the teachers understand the learning styles to adopt in teaching students.

Co-curricular activities can range from written, spoken, or physical activities.

Importance of the medium of instruction


Languages play an important role in the grooming of a child and if you cannot get a school that can help your child learn in the language that they understand, you'll be helping them to become thoughtful global citizens and shape their future for the better.

Whatever school you enrol your child in will have a huge role to play in their understanding of the fluency of the language both in written and spoken forms. In Hong Kong public schools where native languages such as Cantonese and Mandarin are compulsory, Anglo-speaking students will find it difficult to adapt.

This will take a huge toll on their confidence and academics. Parents must give very thorough consideration to choosing the right school not just for the sake of popularity but for the sake of their children.

Although both public primary/secondary schools and international schools can nurture students to become bilingual, the language in which every subject is taught (the language of instruction) plays a huge role in their success in the long run. The language of instruction will differ from school to school. If you want your kids to learn Chinese and Mandarin but be taught in English, then international schools are your best bet.

However, if on the contrary, you want your kids to have classes in Mandarin but maintain their English proficiency, then Hong Kong public schools might be the right option for you.
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