Local or International Schools ?

Mr Tall,

I'm glad that you're leading the way with the choice on which type of school to attend.

Currently I'm hoping that we'll find a way for Baby B to learn Chinese writing, which would suggest a local school. But I also wonder how much of a hard time she'd have there. Kids are notorious for picking on any differences, and having light brown hair is a very obvious difference. While reading your article last week I even caught myself thinking "I wish she looked a bit more Chinese" !!

The other potential downside of being taught in Chinese is that I won't have much of clue what teaching materials are being used, or how homework is going. Hmm, just thinking about that some more - which direction has the pendulum swung at the moment on using english-language text books ? Maybe a local school using english materials is the compromise ?

Fortunately for us, you are one year ahead on all these big decisions, so we'll be watching your progress with interest.

Mr B.

PS As with most of the cross-cultural issues in HK, the Lily Wong cartoon strip has some amusing comments on this subject.

Re:Local or International Schools ?

A quick google on "EMB" takes us to http://www.emb.gov.hk/index.asp, but I didn't find it a very helpful site. Although the front pages of sections are in English, many of the links are to Chinese pages.

A search for "school" at http://www.asiaxpat.com.hk/parents/ turned up some interesting comments.

EMI... A local friend who's a teacher had explained the catch-22 of trying to use spoken English to teach in his Secondary school : Speak English and a large part of the class don't understand, speak Cantonese and the English standard never improves. He's from a school with a very good reputation, so I guess the problem is much worse elsewhere. Still, if EMI means I can see what the text books are talking about, I'll be happy.

I think EMI only takes effect at secondary-school level ? Any thoughts on primary schools ?

Regards, MrB

Re:Local or International Schools ?

A very pertinant topic. Check out the progress of D.S.S. schools (direct subsidy scheme). Many of these are if not already will be EMI.

I would be happy to give you my observations about what happens to mixed kids in a local environment (it does'nt always end up bad)

International kids/local schools

Nic, I think we batgung (and probably many readers) would be delighted to hear more about 'mixed' kids doing well in local schools. Do tell!

Re:Local or International Schools ?

If you know of any links to a description of the different school types, that would be welcome too. Also, what's EMI ? In my line of work it means Electro-magnetic Interference, but I'm hoping in yours it means something very different !

Cheers, MrB

Re:Local or International Schools ?


so much depends upon each individual school. The lily wong cartoon posted previously sums up a lot. My chinese boss liked it so much he asked me to forward it to the rest of the staff!

EMI stands for english as a medium of instruction. There are 2 ways of loooking at this, how a native speaker would envisage EMI and how a local does.

Strictly speaking, EMI means that lessons are taught solely in english. However, you know what the standard of english can be like amongst some adults in HK, well, EMI in some schools means only a couple of subjects and or an english text that is taught using cantonese.

The other view is that of local parents whose asian background would relate more to a native approach to english, eg, indians, nepalese and phillippino parents. They believe that EVERY situation in a school should be in english if the school purports to be an EMI one. However, we are in a chinese society where cantonese is the dominant language. It is difficult to mandate a particular social language as well as demanding a perfect grasp of english of visitors/speakers to any school.

The kids that cope better are the ones who can speak cantonese and therefore can involve themselves in what is happening. However, many kids with great english seem to band together with other similar peers, forming a fairly narrow and exclusive group.

Re:Local or International Schools ?

If you know of any links to a description of the different school types, that would be welcome too. Also, what's EMI ? In my line of work it means Electro-magnetic Interference, but I'm hoping in yours it means something very different !

Cheers, MrB

try the EMB website.

Re:Local or International Schools ?


have a look at this url:


there are only 3 listed though should give you some idea.

Local or International

Mr. Tall, somehow I managed to re-register and so can post. Thanks. The other posts at this discussion board by "Ron" are also my posts.

For others...

Mr. Tall and I were having this discussion [a month ago] back at Phil Ingram's blog [thanks Phil] and we decided to continue it here. Sorry, I could not post earlier due to hand injury.

Now for a general introduction, even I married a wonderful Hong Kong lady and we now have three extremely naughty but lively kids.

The eldest son is Vinnie [14], daughter Veronica is 7, and youngest son is Ronald Jr. [6].

Yes, yes we are aware that we were not very careful and have two younger ones in a short span. But, that has now proved to be a blessing as both Veronica and Ronald study in the same school and same class.

Now to mention our experiences about mixed kids in local schools...

Back in the 90's Vinnie was just preparing to enter school and as he was our first, my wife and I discussed a lot before eventually sending Vinnie to a local school.

Our plan was that Vinnie grasp and understand both written and spoken Chinese at a young age. This because, Chinese is a comparatively difficult language [as the system involves symbols and is different from ours].

We believed that Vinnie would surely pick up Englsih easily [at home] as even my wife; despite being a Hong Kong Chinese, was educated overseas and speaks perfect English. Furthermore, since I am an entreprenuer and have settled in Hong Kong since 16/17 years, ours was not a case of expats returning *back* to native country [say after a couple of years].

This in my opinion is a major consideration in selecting schools. For example, if in the colonial days, British children came to Hong Kong because their parents were posted here [and that too temporarily or for a specific time limit], then I would advise that they go to ESF schools right away.

For them, learning Chinese or Cantonese would not be such a important issue as they may not permanently settle in Hong Kong.

On the other hand, families like us need to think about the future of our children and possibly give them best of both worlds.

Therefore, Vinnie started his education in local kindergarten and thereafter moved on to a local primary school. Later he would further move on to ESF school.

As you already know by now, Vinnie is a mixed kid and it shows on his face, etc. But in our experience, this was not a major problem for him. He even laughs when people call him Gwei Chai [which means foreigner kid, but literally means Ghost Kid].

However, a point to note is that there is definite discrimination in Hong Kong [society] and the discrimination is unequal. Meaning that a Caucasian Chinese kid will fare much better compared to Indian, Pakistani, Philipino, Nepalese, or Thai mixed kid.

In fact, a Caucasian Chinese kid will be looked upon with pride and awe, whereas the other category above will suffer. Nonetheless, the discrimination is nowhere as serious as say the White/Black divide back home.

In short, I don't see any discrimination problems for kids of Mr. Tall and/or Mr. B. On the contrary, expect the teachers of local schools to give *extra* attention to your children which eventually is good.

I am sorry if anyone is offended, but this is a fact of Hong Kong and has been created by Hong Kong's multi-racial society alongside its colonial legacy.

Anyway... Vinnie sailed smoothly and effortlessly through his kindergarten and primary school(s). In fact, he has become truly bilingual in the sense that he has developed an interest in Classical Chinese literature and at the same time is trying to collect his "canon" of The Hardy Boys [American teenage fiction by Franklin W. Dixon - a fictitious author].

While Franklin W. Dixon's works are nowhere near classical, it does help Vinnie in his upbringing that most of us had as kids back home. So in a sense, Vinnie did get the best of both worlds.

Our plan for Vinnie also included that at a particular age he switchover to International school(s). Therefore, Vinnie knew very early on that after Primary 3 [P3] he would be going to ESF school(s).

Initially we were quite worried about the switchover as the environment would be suddenly different. However, Vinnie always played with other kids of our expat family friends, so the environment factor was not as much of a shock.

However, Vinnie did become a bit introvert in the first few months at ESF (P4) and we also felt that he was losing confidence. But my wife and I spent a lot of time with him, gave him enough counselling and arranged events with his [now] new school friends and their families, so as to regain his confidence.

This helped Vinnie a lot and after a few months, all his problems disappeared. There was never a "Me no speakee English" problem for Vinnie as we speak both English [more] and Cantonese [daily] at our house.

Vinnie's great break came [in ESF] when he started scoring quite good in sports as well. Even at the age of 13 he was almost 6 feet tall and he definitely has excellent physique. This helped him a lot alongside regaining his confidence.

Today, Vinnie still goes to public libraries and reads Chinese books and on the other hand he is almost an all American kid.

Note: I am not sure whether there is a word limit for the posts and this one has become too long. So I will continue about Veronica and Ronald Jr. in the next post.

[Continued in next post]...

Re:Local or International Schools ?

[Continued from previous post]...

Upon second thoughts, I will compose the post about Veronica and Ronald on some other day.

The reason being that, their's is a very unique case as they both study in the same school and same class.

Furthermore, just last month, we changed their schools back from ESF to local. And I will explain all the interesting facts why we changed all of a sudden.

Until then... please convey my best regards to all your loved ones ever and you all take care too.

Re:Local or International Schools ?

Ron, Thanks for posting your experiences of schooling for your older son, I found it reassuring to read. It'll be interesting to hear the reasons for the switch from ESF back to local schools, and how that turns out.

Regards, MrB

PS thanks also to Nic for the link - it's amazing the difference in fees among the three schools that are listed.

Re:Local or International Schools ?

Actually Mr B,

Did you see the guide the SCMP printed 2 weeks ago about private schools in HK? It listed some of the main DSS schools.

In fact, some newly established DSS schools are charging NO fees at present.

Local or International Schools

Dear Mr Tall

I've just read your posts on having a baby in Hong Kong and the dilemmas surrounding the choice of educational institution. Your posting on schools really captured the conversation my wife (who's Chinese) and I are having. Our daughter - Leilani - is nearly 2 1/2, and we've got to make a decision soon. We want her to speak and read Chinese, but dumping her in a local school is not really an option (for all the reasons you mentioned). We'd like to send her to a school that teaches in Mandarin and English (and the Montessori on Caine Road actually does that), but this option is ridiculously expensive (more than $5,000 per month). I'm not really prepared to fork out that amount for classes where she'll spend most of her time gluing cotton wool onto coloured paper. Interestingly enough, Adam at http://www.brainysmurf.org/archives/000478.html had a posting on homework today and I http://www.brainysmurf.org/archives/000478.html#comments posted the following comment, which outlines some of my other concerns regarding kindergartens here:

"I live with my wife and 2 1/2 year old daughter in Hong Kong and we are in the midst of assessing pre-school options for when she turns 3 (the age at which children here start attending educational institutions). An expat friend (from Malaysia) whose son has just started at a kindergarten here told me yesterday that her son's already coming home every night with homework (causing more stress for the parents than for the child, she added laughing). Okay, it's only art homework (pasting cotton wool on paper and the like, I suppose - he's not sweating over quadratic equations just yet...). Nevertheless, my friend spends a lot of time preparing materials beforehand and cleaning up the mess afterwards. She's also already received a telephone call from her son's teacher chastising her failure to follow the instructions accompanying his homework. On top of this she has a (Chinese expletive deleted) clothing list that includes a crimson blazer and bow tie. My daughter attends playgroup twice a week (for half a day each time). She loves it, but so far there's no homework. Except of course the puzzles, playing horsie, pulling her around our apartment on a rug, making blanket tents, bath time bubble blowing, dancing, etc etc etc... Ha ha."

I'm sure it will all work out fine...

Local and International Schools

Even before Leilani was born I was assuming the role of financially spooked dad and looking long and hard at international school fees. One school whose name has slipped my mind - possibly blocked out as a consequence of sheer fright - charged something like $150,000 per annum by the time your little one had become a big one in Form 6, on top of which were extracurricular activities. I'm all for a spot of after school debating or weekend tennis, but when I looked at their site I saw that what they meant were field trips to Italy and the like. All of a sudden I was seeing another $10,000 or more flying out the window.

And then there was the story in the [i]SCMP[/i] 3 or 4 years ago about the girl attending her senior dance who asked daddy if he could borrow one of his business associate's Roller for the evening so she could be spared the indignity of stepping out of a lowly Mercedes in front of her peers. After all, she wailed, everyone else was arriving in style.

I guess I better keep a copy on hand of Zhang Yimou's Not One Less handy so that I can show my daughter that conditions in her school aren't really all that bad...

Local school experience

[I posted this earlier on the wrong thread]

send my daughter to a local school. She is no. 29 in a class of 38 girls. As far as local aided schools go, it is quite good. Although very crowded by western standards, the atmosphere is cheerful and loving.

My daughter is in P2, she is the only "mixed" girl in her year (out of ~120 girls) and may be the only mixed girl in her primary. The Cantonese word for "mixed blood" was a new word that she learned on the first day.

Because her mother (that's me, the authour) is the foreign one, her mother-tongue is English, which puts her at a bit of a disadvatage. It also means that the homework burden and communicating with the school burden falls on my husband. Because he does not come home until about 7pm at night, we have to hire a tutor to help her w/ her homework. (or, I suppose we could send her to a "Bo Jaap" centre).

If you plan to send your baby to a local primary school, then you will need to send her to a local kindergarten. The expat oriented kindergartens will most likely not be able to prepare your child for the enormous amount of work they will have to cope with right at the begining of P1. Even for regular HK parents, the first year of primary school is often a terrible strain and shock: the weekly dictations in English in Chinese, the regular exams; the sheer heavy weght of the school bag.

My husband thinks that schools are harder today than when he was a boy and that our daughter, although at the bottom of her class in reading and writing Chinese, knows more characters at the age of 7 than he did when he was 7.

So why do we keep her in the local school, and plan to send her younger brother to one?

1) Language - we want them to be fluent in Cantonese and since we speak English at home, this is the best method we can think of.

2) Language - we want them to be able to read and write in Chinese, and it seems like the best way for them to learn. Every year that they manage to hang on in the local school means a few hundred more characters.

3) Sense of place - the kids are growing up in HK and we want them to be HK kids, have more of a sense of community and rootedness.

So, we try to keep a close eye on her progress and how she feels, and will pull her out and switch her to an ESF school if/when she feels like it's too much for her, or if we notice that her attitude towards learning is begining to deteriorate.

Local or International Schools

We've decided to try and get our daughter into one of the good local schools whose medium of instruction is English. The two we're aiming for are DGS and Maryknoll. Almost all students in these schools are Chinese and so she'll grow up fluent in Cantonese (and Mandarin) and be able to read and write in Chinese. The only catch is that they're ultra competitive. My wife went along to collect the application forms from a kindergarten that feeds one of the aforementioned schools (it's probably best that I don't mention the kindergarten name), even though She Who Must Definitely Be Obeyed is still too young to attend. The kindergarten in question provides application forms on one day for two hours (for the cost of $20). My wife said that they instructed everyone to have the exact money ready to hand over and a form was dispensed every three to four seconds. At any one time there were over three hundred people in the queue. You can work out the financial turnover yourself.

Some of you may think we're mad picking up the form a year early. It's a good thing we did because we would have been absolutely soiling our pants by now if we didn't. Application forms can only be returned in the week after picking them up (and during a one hour period only). The first hurdle to gaining admission is that the parents need to be able to return the admissions form correctly. The application form goes on top, and then five photocopies and envelopes under that (use paper a clip, don't staple), and "all papers should fit neatly behind the application form". I would have failed at this initial stage. However, the real hurdle - over and above my slovenly bookkeeping skills - is the interview (this is for girls aged three I should add). That it's a hurdle is evidenced by the fact that my wife brought home about a dozen pamphlets in Chinese advertising 'kindergarten interview technique tutorial classes'. There are a whole heap of cram schools out there for two year olds to learn interview techniques.

For instance, one learning centre (which provided English pamphlets) advertises a "Lower Class Interview Course" (for kindergarten). The brochure is explicit: "... thus enable them to performance well during the interview". Yes, well ... but you get the drift. Another one requests that you contact Auntie XXX to have "tutoring lessons arranged as soon as possible so that you children can be well trained".

The most extensive advertising literature was an eight-page booklet extolling the virtues of a school whose name featured a well-known English university. It teaches colloquial English, formal English, English usage, English songs, and so on.

If we were handing our forms back next week we

Re:Local or International Schools ?

The posting above on kindergarten cram schools is mine, but for some reason the system registered me as Guest (or Anonymous). Anyway, any abuse can be directed at me rather than poor Anonymous Guest...

thinking about schools

Thanks much to Lohpoh and Stephen for their telling and even poignant tales of schools and the admissions process!

It's certainly quite arresting -- and a bit disturbing -- to hear the story of a little girl in early primary school who already knows she's 'number 29'. Lohpoh, I really admire your and your husband's perseverance in this! Please do keep checking back in to let us know how your daughter (and soon your son) are doing.

Stephen, Mr B and I will also be watching your daughter's story closely. Have you gone ahead and turned in the application? The details you give of assembling the applications chill me. I can't keep two sheets of paper in order for more than a few minutes at a time!! Well, this is clearly Mrs Tall's domain . . . .

One thing I've noticed myself doing in the past couple of months, as Toddler Tall picks up words, gestures, etc., is starting to think to myself 'Oh -- she's being so outgoing and friendly to that stranger she's just met. That'll be great for her kindergarten interviews!' And now while her little brain is so utterly plastic, and before she can develop any discernible tastes for videos, books, etc., it's tempting just to try to jam her with ABCs, numbers, colors -- all the 'skills' she'll need so soon, instead of letting her watch cartoons, read silly books, etc. Sheesh. This stuff really starts working on your head!!

An easy one. . .

Roger over at Simonworld has the other side of the story about school admissions: for his daughter, the whole thing couldn't have been easier. Find out why at http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/006921.html. It's a very interesting account, and I learned a number of things I didn't know from it. Roger also brings up a serious moral dilemma that was involved -- it seems even when school admission in Hong Kong is easy, it's never simple.


My son has just started at an ESF primary school. and so far I am very happy with the approach and the way the school works.

Rather to my surprise at least 85% of his classmates are Chinese, with the rest being Caucasian or Caucasian/Chinese mixed (like my son). The teachers are British or Australian.

ESF gets subsidies from the government, so it's not the most expensive option, but obviously it's more expensive than the government schools.

No time now for a longer missive, but maybe later.

Waiting.... & Religion

So far, our son has been rejected by our Discretionary Allocation choice school (govt. aided) and one DSS school. He has been "wait-listed" by yet another DSS school, and we are waiting to hear from the 3rd DSS school.

Went to my daughter's Sports Day preliminaries on Friday. Took a 1/2 day off from work so I could sit for 3 hours and then go and stand at the rail and cheer on my girl in the 60 m. dash. (took a 30 seconds or less).

The girls were sweet and the teachers and headmistress kind to me (said nice things about my daughter).

One thing I'd also like to mention to those of you who are not familiar with the local school scene and that is its highly religious nature.

My kids went to an Anglican kindergarten and now my daughter goes to an Anglican school. Every week they have scripture lessons and they say grace before snack or lunch, the End of Term Service is a religious occassion.

On Sports Day, we also started w/ a prayer in Cantonese - basically thanking God for the good weather and so on.

Since I am a practicing member of the Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Church in HK) and my local church sponsors the kindergarten my kids attend, and our vicar sometimes preaches at my daughter's primary school, this degree of religious practice and inculcvation doesn't bother me too much (although I have winced when my 4 year-old begansontaneously singing "Yes, Jesus Loves Me..." on the MTR). I know that a couple of weeks ago there were a series of letters to the ditor in the SCMP on the religious sponsorship in many schools, so it needs mentioning here.

Many of the "big name" schools are religious: Maryknoll, La Salle, Wah Yan are all Roman Catholic. DGS, DBS, St. Paul's Co-ed, etc. are Anglican.

Other "private" schools also have a religious orientation, for example the Norwegian International School and (rather obviously) the International Christian School..

Re:Local or International Schools ?


Did you find you needed to send your children along to the kindergarten interview preparation classes that Stephen mentioned ? I've heard of them several times, and I get a feeling of despair every time I do. What a strange way for a school to start their application process by looking for cookie-cutter children all of a certain kind. I suppose we may end up doing the same if it's the only way, but aiyaaa!

I'm also curious to hear how much a parent's religion has on whatever scoring system the school uses to judge a child's worthiness. You're right that many of the schools in HK are Saint something-or-other, so I'm wondering if my lack of religion is going to be a hindrance too?

Ideally I'd like to avoid the heavy religious overtones you mentioned in your post, and let BabyB make up her own mind when she's older. But again, it'll probably be a tradeoff of that against the overall level of education.

Regards, MrB

Kindergarte Interview classes


We didn't do those. My kids are pertty outgoing, and I always read to them and played with them, and they don't clam up when asked to "perform", instead they are major "hams".

We did prepare them a little. A couple of weeks before the interview we began to tell them how they would be going to meet a nice lady who would chat with them and ask them some questions. We did a little "what's you're name, what's you're favorite color" (and visions of Monty Python and the Holy Grail kept making me giggle) stuff.

One of the big name kindergartens wait-listed my darling daughter, while the other accepted her. My younger child had things made a bit easier for him, because his charming elder sister paved the way (siblings get extra points). If my second was only a girl, then I wouldn't be so concerned about his present P1 prospects. When we chose the single-sex school for our daughter, we knew we were gambling w/ the second's prospects.

From what I understand. many schools follow a "formula" of:

5 points = eldest child in the family
5 points = same religion as the sponsoring body
5 points = older sibling in school
5 points = parent attended the school ("old boy" or "old girl")

If the school is secular, it probably won't use the religous points.

So, my son for some of the schools that rejected him only had 5 points.

But who really knows how it all works.

Re:Local or International Schools ?

I had the opportunity to go to 3 schools in Hong Kong (4 if you include the Montesory Kindergarden). Here's my insight if you care for it.

All ESF schools are remarkable. The teaching staff are impeccable and the quality of study is astounding. I had the good fortune to attend Bradbury Junior school for 3 years before I moved to the UK for a period. If you live on the South Side, you'll either be in BJS or Kennedy Road's catchment area (as I remember it anyway).

I spent half a year at the Lyc

Choices between local/ESF schols

Background: I am an expat on local terms in a local (99% Chinese) company. Madam is Chinese and we both speak fluent English and I can do pretty well in Cantonese. We have three snot machines. I've probably got it wrong that the school we are looking at is not a DSS school, but for the sake of the message take it as meaning local 'cos I don't want to go through and re-edit the entire message. :oops:

My eldest has been accepted and is very happily attending an ESF school however Madam decided that she would like to see if it would be possible to get him into a 'name' DSS school. Apparently ESF students can still get these places and so, to our surprise he has been accepted and we now need to make a very difficult decision.

As with most others I hope that my kid will be bilingual however if one language is to be weaker than the other than I would prefer it to be Chinese. He attended an international kindergarten (read Chinese language) and was at the age of four frequently doing 3+hrs of homework - OK if he didn't have the attention span of gerbil it might not be so much, but none the less this is what he was doing - this was a major reason for looking at ESF schools in the first place.

Madam went through the HK education system and did well in exams but now has no recollection of anything she learnt but is now not using. I went through the education system at home (widely criticised but I don't think to bad) and came out with a love of learning and an understanding of the principles involved...and so have a pretty good recollection of most things I have learnt. We both agree that this is pretty close to the truth. Hence the dilemna.

In our opinion pros of ESF/disadvantages of DSS

1) When you look at the ESFs websites they have a philosophy towards educating the kids which is essentially in line with my own. The DSS school doesn't seem really interested in discussing their philosophy and I am unable to get any feel for it from their website.

2) Kid genuinely loves it because they have so much fun and no homework.

3) Seems to be a very broad education and learn the basics through other topics and having that specialist knowledge gives them something which they can tell adults which Kid loves.

4) More in line with home education system (not British...but similar) so if we decide its time to leave, it may make the transition easier.

5) Native english teachers in all subjects (OK except Chinese) and so no risk of substandard English in the class room - well no more than a school back home.

6) Direct path through to senior high. DSS we'd have to apply

Pros of DSS/Cons of ESF

1) Able to learn Cantonese. ESF teaches Mandarin but at a very low level similar to kids first year in primary.

2) Easier to get into University if we are still in HK? Don't know but it seems to make sense....most ESF kids seem to get out of HK education system.

3) Money. Kid is 1 of 3. ESF is cheap and in my opinion good value, but it's not free. Government talking about scrapping subsidies means that either facilities are going to suffer or fees are going to go up. 48kpa/kid if it stays the same could be well spent on other things for them.

4) DSS has Name recognition, in HK coming from a name school gives you a good network and interviewers look very favourably at this I know from my own company. Madam says in the local psyche ESF means you can afford a good education, name means you've got a bright kid.

5) ESF has recently discharged two principals for failing audits (is this good/bad) and some of the others are leaving. Is this 4/10 changing?...I don't know the numbers exactly but that's not low and may point to more fundamental troubles. Changing principals may also significantly change the school culture.

It seems a lot of you guys are at the beginning of these problems but I'd love to here why Ron decided to change to ESF. Lots of people tell us we should go to the DSS school for a couple of years and change back but I've also heard from some [other] people that they have been wait-listed for ESF schools after going with other schools first.

Hope I didn't babble too much. :D


Hi Bijai and others,

My husband and I have decided to switch to ESF next September (if there are places available....).

Our son, despite going to a "name" kindergarten was rejected by 3 schools, and waitlisted by a 4th. We don't know what's wrong. Is it that our son's Chinese is weaker than his English? Is it that he's the "wrong type" of mix (mother is the westerner) and schools antiicipate problems w/ home-school communication (although my husband has been responsible for that w/ our daughter in her Govt. school). Or maybe I talked too much in the interview? Or maybe our son was too "lively" in his interview?

So, we are now in the process of trying to get both kids into our local ESF school. We feel exhausted and are so SICK of having to nag nag nag our daughter to stop reading a book and do her homework, or stop drawing a picture and get her school bag together. She was doing OK in everything but her written Chinese, but we are afraid that if our nagging and the homework pressure continue, it will hurt our relationship, and destroy her love of learning.

It's been a really hard thing. If our circumstances were different, or we were different people, maybe we would "tough it out". But instead, we have decided that we would rather have our kids learning happily in one language than indifferent or hostile (or thinking they are dumb) in two. Then we can have more time on the weekends to go to the beach, or museums, or just hang out.

With the local system I often felt like our family was a round peg, trying to cram itself into a square hole. I know that my educational philosophy might not match the ESF perfectly, but at least there will be more common ground (I hope).

As for the name recognition... KGV and Sha Tin college have good name recognition too (I don't know about on the Island). And ultimately, I care less about the brand of education than the quality. We are not really planning to send our kids to Uni here in HK anyway, so why have them study their youths away for HKCEE and HK A-levels?

So, we have capitulated. But I feel like I should warn you that the waiting lists for places at ESF schools are also long and if you kid shows signs that he or she can cope in the local system, you may have a very long wait indeed.


Hi Lohpoh,

I thought the thread may have died, thanks for your reply. What year is your daughter in now? We are in the ESF school now for Kid #1 but as we started at 5 instead of 6 like the local schools it means that we now have an opportunity to change apparently.

Do you know anyone (mixed) who is successfully studying in local schools? I met a western mother who had a girl in a local school studying quite happily, but with that exception I really don't know anyone.

Madam says that she saw two kids from the local school kid #1 has been accepted in to. The first was crying whilst waiting for the bus because he'd been sick during the test and so hadn't performed well. This is a P1 kid. The mother and another parent suggested that they pray together that the results would be OK anyway. Again P1!!!

I wonder if the IB which ESF now use makes it difficult for them to enter Uni here. Like yourself we don't plan to use local Uni's, but why rule them out unnecessarily? Also quality is of course most important, but if kids are not being pushed at all, as I feel it is in P1 at least, then it may lead to them not achieving and not forming good habits. It is this balance between the workload of local 'name' schools and the relatively (at least it appears) ESF style that we are trying to figure out.

Best of luck in getting an ESF place.

school stuff - ESF & Local


My eldest is in P2. My younger one is in K3, so if we get a place he would be in P2 of ESF and the older one would be in P4.

IB, A-levels, who knows what the HK unis will require in 12 years time? Besides, a student in theory can bypass the JUPAS and apply for direct admission based on results other than the HK A-levels.

I agree w/ the need to form good habits in primary school, but I haven't seen an evidence (yet) that ESF kids are lazy or that the kids who graduate from these schools become... I don't know, what's the fear... ignorant, undisciplined young derelicts, destined to sponge off their parents the rest of their lives?

I guess the only things is to try and see. Different kids have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as the schools. Maybe your kids might thrive in the local system, quite a few do. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We are happy that at least we have TRIED the local system for our eldest one.

My eldest (in P2) just came home w/ a 53 on her latest Chinese exam. It's better than the 50 earlier in the semester (we tried to console her), and she also comforted herself that there was another girl in the class who got a 48. SAD.

Re:Local or International Schools ?

One of the common themes of local education is the high volume of homework, even at an early age. If there are any local teachers reading, I'd be interested to hear why this is the approach that local schools take, and what the benefits are considered to be. I can see that learning chinese characters needs a lot of drill and repetition, but why so much homework beyond that ?

Talking with MrsB about it this evening, she felt that many parents would complain if they felt their children weren't coming home with enough homework - that somehow it wwould be taken as a sign the school's education wasn't up to scratch. So it would also be good to hear whether schools are keen to move away from the heavy homework load or not, and whether they face resistance from their parents ("If it was good enough for me...").


Re:Local or International Schools ?


The homework thing is very true. Even in ESF we know some of the parents are complaining about the lack of homework. #2s kindergarten doesn't have anywhere near the homework but the idea for most of these schools, as stated earlier, is preparing them for entrance exams for the 'name' primary school.

Just had a discussion with a former classmates family in front of the kid where they were saying he was useless because he hadn't got a first round offer. To quote Lohpoh, SAD.

school stuff - ESF & Local


I guess you are right about the IB. Not knowing kids that have been through this just intuitively make me nervous.

As it is the time of the year, lots of people are discussing school experiences at work today. A friend talked about somebody who had gone from primary to form 2 always top of the class, parents were headmater and senior teacher and always said how proud they were. Then in form 2 sat an exam whilst sick and came in second in class and committed suicided. If your top you can only get worse, better to have room to improve. Madam says she only asks they're not at the bottom of the class although obviously you don't want their confidence to suffer.

Did your daughter have any people with a similar home situation in her class. Do you know people who do this successfully?

BTW the guest post is mine as well....woops