MissB's kindergarten - did we make the right choice?

This time last year we were taking MissB along to kindergarten interviews. She’s just finishing her first term, and I'm pleased to report it's turned out really well. But though we're happy with our choice, it seems noone else is!

Why do we like it?

The simple fact that MissB looks forward to kindergarten each day is probably the best reason. Also, the teachers' attitudes were what we liked most at interview time, and fortunately they have continued through to the actual schooling.

It’s a local (ie not international) kindergarten, so the big change is how MissB’s spoken Cantonese has blossomed in the last three months. She never had a problem understanding it, but used to be happier speaking English. Now she’s equally confident in either language, and possibly more chatty in Cantonese. It took a while, as for the first few weeks she’d still speak English at school. The teachers would repeat each of her answers in Cantonese, and it didn’t take long for her to make the switch.

Then although she only attends morning classes, she stays on for school lunch. The happy benefit there is that she’s now eating a wider variety of food than when she just ate at home.

So the teachers are doing a great job, and take a lot of effort to tailor teaching to support the child. Little things like sitting MissB next to the chattiest two girls, so she’s always hearing lots of Cantonese. Or sending her home with a book to read that relates to a concern we’d raised in the parent-teacher meeting.

Other little touches I like include telling parents that getting clothes ready for the Christmas party (some creative use of recycled articles required) shouldn’t take more than two hours max. I’ve heard that these home projects can easily escalate into full-on quests for perfection, so some simple guidelines help keep the priorities clear.

We’ve also been pleased with the two school outings we’ve made, one to the zoological gardens, and one to the Lions Nature Education Centre. Now Hong Kong only has a limited selection of outing-friendly destinations, so in true Hong Kong-style you’ll be looking at the animal / plant / picture crowded in with several other groups of children. It’s a good chance to see some of the other schools’ teachers in action. They looked efficient, but just didn’t seem to be having as much fun.

What's not to like?

Well if there were prizes for high-volume snot-production, our house would be a winner. I think her kindergarten must be like a viral buffet, with MissB bringing home a different sample each week to share with friends and family. She’s also brought home another common Hong Kong viral infection – she now makes that ‘V’ hand signal if you point a camera at her. Oh, and whining. MissB seems to have learned some new ways to whinge and whine when she’s trying to get her own way. I picture the children all sitting together and trading tips – “Try this, it really drives my dad mad…”

I can’t really blame the kindergarten for any of those problems, they are just part of the fun of having a three-year old in the house. So it’s all working well, and yet we recently found out an odd thing. The local mums we know think we’re sending MissB to the wrong place!

They don’t say anything direct to MrsB, but grumble to our daily helper instead. I couldn’t understand it at first, because I know at least two of them complain about their children being unhappy at their chosen kindergartens. MrsB explained their reasoning as a combination of:

- It’s a shame MissB goes to a local school when as a mixed child she could be going to an international school. The perception being that international schools are somehow more fun to attend, there’s less homework, but somehow the kids still come out the other end having learned something! Also,

- It’s a shame she goes to that kindergarten when she could have gone to one of the big names. This one is a bit more complex. First there’s the feeling that since she’s mixed, she gets the novelty pass to gain easy access to the “Saint …” kindergartens that are usually difficult to find a place at. Then there seems to be a feeling that since MissB’s kindergarten is run by Caritas it’s seen as a sort of charity, somewhere you’d only go to if you couldn’t find somewhere better.

I suppose they might be right, but so far we’re all happy with our choice. I’ll let you know if that changes, but we’re keeping fingers crossed that the school's good work this first term will continue for the full three years.

Regards, MrB


Hope things continue to go well


I think any kindergarten, especially in the first year is an incredible vector for disease. My eldest brought home lots of colds and infected her infant brother as well. The positive side of that was when the younger one went to kindergarten, he had less sick days.

The K1 year is usually quite gentle and fun for all kids. But I noticed that in the K2 year, work became harder. By K3 my kids were bringing home more work than I really thought appropriate for the age level, with characters that my husband didn't remember having to learn until he was in P2, and English words like "circle" and "rectangle" to memorize and be quizzed on ("Oh no, it's not a test, it's just a weekly spelling check". But, it sounds like Miss. B is going to a sane kindergarten, so maybe that won't be a problem. I hope things continue to go well with her.

re: other mums - some people think that if you spend more $, it must be better. Silly. Maybe you can quote Arthur Li about the higher quality of non-profit kindergartens. ;)

Thanks skmama,

Glad to hear there's some reward for our younger one getting all the colds early. Though to be fair they don't seem to slow her down much - and she seems to find blowing bubbles from her nose is an unexpected but happy bonus!!!

Cheers, MrB

It's same here in US

We are in SF bay area. Both myself and my husband are in high tech industry and we often encount similar comment from friends/coworker/neighbors, except that they say it right in front of our faces. 'Why do you send your children to public school? You can afford it.', 'Private school is better.', 'You should have apply to Challenger, or whatever private school they think is the best, before your child turn one.'
I'm Chinese, was born and raised in HK. Husband is American. Our kids go to a Cantonese daycare. Our older one just turn 4 and we wait until now to send her to preschool in hope she'll learn more Chinese. And it just turns out fine and she's bilingual(not sure how long it'll last). But people looked at us as if we're the worst parents in the world because our then 3 yrs old is not in preschool yet. Although, at age 3, she knows alphabets, shapes, color, and numbers in both English and Cantonese, can converse in both language and is not behind in social skill. People still think we are not providing her the education she 'needs'. Based on what I heard from my friends in HK. I think it's worse in HK but we're catching up here too.

Mom to 2 Chinese American

I am a Chinese American,

I am a Chinese American, native to the SF Bay Area, married to a HK-born woman, and one who lived in HK for 4+ years, so I'm pretty aware of the major schools in HK, the arguments for CMI/EMI, etc.

My take on the pricey international schools in HK - is that they may confer prestige, but they don't necessarily do a better job from an educational standpoint.

I met with an Indian resident of HK who sent his daughters to a local school (run by the Po Leung Kuk organization) who told me that the international schools for expats aren't all that good, they cost a bomb but don't have much discipline with the students. He was happy with his daughter's schools.

schooling in the SF Bay Area

Well, I guess we're pretty lucky to be in a very good public school district. I went to public school in the SF Bay Area and I did well academically. As you know folks will fork out lots more money for housing just because of the schools!

My daughter (2+ years) can speak Mandarin and English, thanks to having a Mandarin-speaking nanny, and we speak to her there. When we visit HK later this year (to see my in-laws) I'll bet she can pick up some Cantonese, too.


I have been searching around for kindergarden interview topics as my gal is going to have her interview next week.. I read from one of your older topics that you said you liked the no.3 school the most, so did you guys picked that school at the end?  May I know which school that is?  as I am still searching...


re: kindergartens

Yes, it was #3 that we chose. Our older daughter ('MissB' in the tales above) had three happy years there, and is now in P1. Her younger sister is now in K1 at the same kindergarten. Funnily enough (but not at the time...) this morning she decided that SHE DID NOT WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL. But she's just having a cranky day - usually she loves it there too.

Sorry though, I'd rather keep anonymous about which school they go to.