Social Media


International School or ESF? Sassy Mama Ruth Benny answers reader questions

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExperts
LearnPost Category - LearnLearn - Post Category - SchoolsSchools

I am currently 37 week pregnant, and beginning to think about education options for my son, but am unsure whether International School or ESF would be a better choice. What are the advantages and disadvantages of International Schools versus ESF?

Parents often ask about the difference between an ESF school and an International School at primary level.

Here are a few differences to note:

Partially government funded and partially funded by fees (until 2016)Mostly funded by fees
Catchment area system – apply to only ONE ESF school based on your home addressNo geographical restrictions; can apply to a school near or far from home, and as many as you like.
Fully accredited to offer IB curriculumFree to run any curriculum, or a mix of curricula
Less competitivePopular schools fiercely competitive
Class size large at 30Class sizes vary between 11 and 28

Let’s consider how ESF compares to the alternatives at three stages: preschool, primary and secondary.

ESF operates four – soon to be five – kindergartens under its affiliated company, ESF Educational Services Limited. Previously, students at these kindergartens earned priority when being considered for a place at primary. This priority has been abolished starting with selections for the AY 2014/15.

International kindergartens are numerous. They run various curricula, adopt various approaches and vary in their selection criteria and process. Some are more reputable than others. One of the very best tools in selecting a kindergarten is to analyse their graduation statistics. If the kindergarten has a good track record in having their students accepted by the primary schools you’re interested in, this would be worth considering seriously. ESF kindergartens don’t share this data and, even if they did, it will take quite a few years for any patterns to emerge under the new policy.

So, why choose an ESF kindergarten?

Judge an ESF kindergarten using the same criteria you’d use to judge any other kindergarten. Some plus points for ESF include the established brand name and reputation, based on excellent teaching staff and a solid curriculum and fully accredited by IBO.

ESF’s nine Primary schools start at Year 1 (age five). Parents can apply to only one school, based on their home address.

All schools are similar in that they follow the PYP curriculum and cost $70,000 per year (AY 2013/14). Otherwise, ESF schools vary in size, diversity and culture.

International schools vary wildly. Very few are charging fees as low as ESF.

Under normal circumstances, a student graduating from an ESF primary school is offered a place in the secondary school of their catchment area. ESF operates only five secondary schools.

All schools offer IB MYP and IB DP – either UK GCSEs or International GCSE. As an alternative to the IB DP, BTec is also offered for students preferring a more practical approach to learning.

ESF’s IB DP results are impressive: In 2013, 98.4% of candidates passed the IB Diploma with an average score of 34.7 points (out of 45).

Cost, Competition & Catchment.
A few final words on three areas:

Cost: Without a doubt, ESF schools provide a high quality education for a lot less than other schools, made possible by government funding. The trade-off, however, is the large class size. All this is bound to change in 2016/17 when the government will no longer be subsidising ESF students. For more information on these changes, see this article.

Competition: At ESF schools, the competition is not nearly as intense as it is at some other top international schools. Roughly 2.1 applications are received for every available place. This ratio is up to 10:1 in some other schools. ESF schools do select students to some extent, but the process is not too rigourous. That said, it’s risky to apply to one ESF school without any back-ups.

Catchment: The catchment area system means that parents don’t have flexibility to choose the school they prefer. Applications are received only from eligible students with proof of address within the catchment area. If the student moves outside the catchment area, they may stay in the original school or apply for a transfer. A transfer will be successful only when a place becomes available. Until then, the student will attend the original school, which may or may not have a bus route to the new address. 

At other international and private schools, no such restriction exists.

Top Image sourced via Shutterstock

Join the conversation

One thought on “International School or ESF? Sassy Mama Ruth Benny answers reader questions

  1. Hi, originally I planned to apply to Hillside ESF kindergarten for my daughter this year (born in December 2013) as we are living on HK Island. She started attending playgroup at Hillside in July 2015. However, we have to move by end of 2015. I wonder if it is good to apply to Tung Chung ESF since Hillside has a very long wait list whereas Tung Chung ESF is new. Or should I try one of the other three ESF kindies? Your advice is much appreciated as it will help me decide where to look for another apartment too. Although the catchment area system does not apply to kindergartens, we still can only apply to one and now that we have to move, I intend to look for a place which will be longer term taking primary school and secondary school into account as well. Thanks in advance for your help.

Comments are closed.

more sassy mama

What's New

We're social
Did you know it's Earth Day? Help your little ones become planet protectors! *How To: Introduce Your Kids To Sustainability* is up on #sassymamahk.⁣
#sosassy #homekong #explorehongkong #sustainability #earthday2019⁣
Happy Easter from all the team at Sassy Mama. We hope you're having an egg-cellent time! 🐣⁣
#sosassy #sassymamahk #homekong⁣
🐰 Getting crafty this weekend? Visit our Instagram stories for step-by-step on how to make these cute Easter bunny decorations.⁣
#sosassy #sassymamahk #eastercrafts⁣
Tell us for a chance to win two nights at a luxury villa in Koh Samui, courtesy of @theluxenomad⁣
We pound the pavements of Hong Kong to bring you the best of what we feel this city has to offer for parents, but now we want to hear your favourite brands and businesses in the city that we call home! Head to the link in our bio to cast your votes in our Best of Hong Kong Reader Awards for the chance to win a two-night stay at Baan Benjamart, part of @dhevatararesidence. ⁣
#sassymamareaderawards #bestofhongkong #sosassy #sassymamahk #homekong ⁣
*Rooftop & Outdoor Bars: The Best Places To Drink And Dine With A View* is up on #sassymamahk. ⁣
You're going to want to save these spots (for when the clouds clear)🌤.⁣
#sosassy #homekong #explorehongkong #igworld #hkig #instahk⁣
How to tackle temples, tempura and tatami mats with kids in tow. *Kyoto With Kids: A Practical Guide For Travelling Families* is up on #sassymamahk. Link in bio! #sosassy #kyoto #japan⁣
*Annabel Karmel’s Essential Guide To Weaning* is up on #sassymamahk. ⁣
It’s such an exciting milestone, but it’s a new art to master and at times can feel equally as unnerving as exciting. ⁣
Visit Sassy Mama Hong Kong to find out where to start plus loads of quick, useful recipes from the No.1 baby and children's cookery expert @annabelkarmel⁣
##annabelkarmel ⁣

We're social

What we're up to and what inspires us