Thinking about sending your child to a bilingual school? Our education expert, Ruth Benny of Top Schools, gives us the scoop on eight of the most popular.
If you have decided that you’d like your child to be bilingual (Chinese – Cantonese and/or Putonghua – and English), the obvious choice is a DSS or a ‘local’ private school.
However, DSS schools are funded by the government and their mission is to produce children who are ‘bi-literate and trilingual’, so they teach in Cantonese, as well as Putonghua and English. Also, the Putonghua and the English is often taught by non-native speakers.
But, we’re not interested in Cantonese!
Many parents nowadays place more emphasis on Putonghua (Mandarin). Perhaps they are not Chinese, they are from the mainland or they feel that Cantonese is easy to pick up anyway. They also prefer a more international style of teaching, perhaps according to an international curriculum too.
Very few schools teach in Putonghua and English, without much Cantonese. Even fewer do this according to an international curriculum. Nevertheless, this is increasingly what parents want and the few schools that fit their needs are extremely competitive.
Here’s the skinny on eight of the most popular:
Chinese International School (CIS) 漢基國際學校 | Braemar Hill
CIS is a well-established school and the first school to teach an international curriculum using English and Putonghua (50/50). They have only 88 places available at the entry level of 4 years old (by 31 Aug) and it’s very competitive. CIS is a school with a $75,000 depreciating “debenture”.
Singapore International School (SIS) 新加坡国际学校（香 港)| Aberdeen
As the name suggests, this school is designed for Singaporeans and is guided closely by the Singapore education philosophy. Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents are entitled to a fee subsidy. Whilst the Putonghua is strong, the written Chinese is simplified characters. HK$200,000 debenture (HK$120,000 for Singaporeans).
Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA) 滬江維多利亞學校 | Aberdeen
This school is part of the Victoria Educational Organisation where children may attend playgroup and kindergarten from 8 months old. Children attending the preschool will have priority admissions to VSA. The approach in this school is to have two class teachers in each classroom, one teaching in Putonghua/Mandarin and the other teaching in English. The school is fully accredited for IB. it is a through-train (meaning it has primary and secondary) and the campus – opened in 2008 – is impressive. No debenture. It is rumoured that one will be introduced for AY 2014/15.
Independent Schools Foundation Academy (ISF) 弘立書院 | Cyberport
This school will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2013. Their approach is unique in Hong Kong where the children start at 5 years old (K3) learning 30% in English and 70% in Putonghua. All teachers are native speakers.
At Foundation Level, 150 places are available (10 classes of 15). At Grade 1, 30 more places are available as the class size increases to 18. The balance of English/Putonghua adjusts throughout primary until it reaches 50/50 at the end of primary and the Putonghua component declines throughout secondary as the English is increased. The campus is impressive and in the midst of development projects to add a new block and a swimming pool. Through-train with a $200,000 refundable debenture or an annual levy.
Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau (PLK CKY) 保良局蔡繼有學校 | Kowloon
A through train school, established in 2002, occupying a beautiful new campus in Kowloon. The school fees here are reasonable and the students are mainly from Cantonese speaking families. For that reason, the school uses Cantonese in P1 to teach Chinese. Thereafter, more is taught in Putonghua. The English teaching is strong, all taught by native English speaking teachers. No debenture. Starts at age 6 (P1).
Kingston International School 京斯敦國際學校 | Kowloon
A small private school operating out of a small campus comprising of a few houses joined together. The IBPYP program (International Bacculaureate Primary Years Program) is taught in English and Putonghua. Although this is not a through-train, children receive priority admissions at International College Hong Kong for secondary. No debenture.
St Stephen’s College Preparatory School 聖士提反書院附屬小學 | Stanley
A well-renowned school. Officially, the languages used are English and Putonghua. However, similar to PLK CKY, the vast majority of students and teachers share their native tongue of Cantonese so it is the ‘playground language’ and will creep into the classroom too. No debenture.
Kiangsu Chekiang Primary School 蘇浙小學| North Point
This is the first school to use Putonghua to teach and the main language used. And note, this is not to be confused with Kiangsu Chekiang International School (KCIS) which is very different! This school has a very “local” flavour (follows the local curriculum) and occupies an old campus without facilities. On the other hand, the school fees are very low and the Chinese program is very strong. The English – up to an hour a day – is taught by non-native teachers. The school does have a kindergarten section and children do receive priority in the admissions process.