School for 5 yr Old

We're moving to Hong Kong from the US in late August and have a 5-year-old who will be starting school. Is it even possible to get into a school right off the bat? Suggestions? We're allotted about $10,000.00 US for school fees per year. We thought about living on Discovery Bay, but DBIS has a two year waiting list. We weren't sure this would be a good area for us to begin with.It looks a little too much like our highly planned retirement villages here..
What do you do if you can't get a placement in schools? Also, we're both employed and don't want a full time domestic helper. What do you do for after-school care?
We aren't sure where we want to live yet, but don't want to spend excessive time trying to get the little one to school. We're coming over in June for a house-hunting trip and are thinking about Kowloon Tong. Is it an expat friendly area? Our office is in Kwai Chung N.T. The commute doesn't look to be too bad..

Schools, etc.

Hi Georgie;

Great to hear you'll be moving to HK!

Your questions are good ones. You *do* need to think about schools asap, since getting your kid settled is paramount in terms of making the move. Here is a page on the site of our friends at GeoExpat that lists out all of the international/English speaking schools in HK: [url][/url]

I am no expert on which is better than which, but my overall impression is that international schools in HK are generally pretty solid, if expensive. Note that your child doesn't necessarily have to go to one of the 'American' schools on the list, although the matchup in terms of grade levels and teaching styles would most likely be the closest.

In fact, now that I'm thinking about it -- if your child is only five, has he/she already completed kindergarten in the states? If not, then you don't yet want to be looking at regular primary (i.e. elementary) schools here in Hong Kong. The breakup of schooling years is different here, in that what in the US we call preschool and kindergarten, i.e. the years when kids are 3, 4 and 5, are all considered here in HK to be 'kindergarten', i.e. K1, K2 and K3. Kids start primary school here in the equivalent of US grade 1, i.e. at age 6. So you may need to be looking for a kindergarten instead of a primary school, is what I'm saying. This makes things somewhat easier, I think, in that all 'kindergartens' in HK are privately-run, and therefore sometimes a little less tight in terms of admissions. Here's a page from the HK Government education site that lists out all the kindergartens in Hong Kong; you can pick 'Kowloon City' as the area that includes Kowloon Tong:[url][/url]

You've mentioned Kowloon Tong as a likely place to start looking for a place to live. I think that's a pretty good choice, given that your work place is going to be in Kwai Chung. Kowloon Tong is very nice, in fact, and definitely expat-friendly. It's saturated with schools/kindergartens, including a number of international ones. It also has a very good shopping mall (Festival Walk) with expat-friendly grocery stores and restaurants, and it's the place where the MTR (subway) and KCR (suburban train) systems meet up, so public transport access is also very good.

You may find it difficult to arrange child care if you don't hire a full time domestic helper. There are day-care sorts of places in HK, but they are not nearly as widespread as they are in the States, since the great majority of families with two working parents hire a full-time, live-in domestic helper. Families who don't hire helpers often have relatives who take care of the kids, which isn't going to be an option for you.

I think you're right, by the way, in your impressions of Discovery Bay! Some people love it, but it's not for everyone, that's for sure.

Anyway, good luck in your school and house hunting, and please do post any other questions/progress reports you have time for.

Mr Tall

Re:School for 5 yr Old

Mr. Tall,

Thank you for your reply. The school system is quite confusing to me, especially since each type of curriculum calls classes something else and no one really seems to post ages per grade. We're looking at a few schools that have "reception" years prior to primary, so they'll be able to place him in the right class (I hope). The first place I contacted was an ESF kindergarten and they told me he was too old and would be in primary, but others have told me the same thing you did. More questions for you..

In the US, I could hire a high school student for after-school care. Is this legal in Hong Kong? I was thinking that perhaps if the school system we end up in has primary and secondary schools in the same location we might find a responsible upperclassman who would be interested in earning a few extra bucks. At this point we just aren't comfortable with the idea of a domestic helper living in our home and are seeking some viable alternative.

The main reason we thought we might be interested in DB is that we are both outdoor enthuisiasts and currently enjoy the freedom of being able to run or bike a trail prior to starting, or at the end, of our work day. Trails on Lantau seem to be pretty accessible. I know Kowloon Tong is urban, but that doesn't always mean there isn't a good trail system available. Can you tell me if there is? We aren't big on running in the park and road biking in HK looks like it could be suicidal- or at the very least, not much of a stress reliever with all the traffic to dodge.

So, next question. How does one transport bikes to outlying trails for those weekend excursions? This is one aspect of life with public transport we haven't figured out yet.

Last question for now.. Which smells worse, Durian or Bean Curd??


Re:School for 5 yr Old

Aha - down to the serious business of living in HK! Definitely Durian- plus its everywhere - street stalls, supermarkets etc. I don't like the stuff so am seriously biased!
Smelly beancurd is getting harder to find/sniff out! Although its potency factor is hard to ignore.

I'll leave all the school/babysitting stuff to Messrs. T & B as they're the family guys.

Isn't there a whole issue with MTR and KCR about transporting bikes on their trains or has that all been resolved? The upshot being that unless you have a car to transport your bikes, you have to risk life and limb just getting to the trails. HK Island and the New Territories also have some good bike trails. There are a couple of mountain bike clubs in HK; maybe search if they have websites etc for info.

Hope you and your family have fun in HK!