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Our education expert Ruth answers all your questions on schooling in Hong Kong

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This week, Ruth Benny of Topschools (and former That Mama interviewee!) is focusing on preschools and kindergartens for younger children, and the importance of planning early for their education.

My baby is 6 months old and people keep telling me to ‘get his name down on a school list’. Do I really need to think about schooling so soon?

It’s very useful to think about schooling when your child is 6 months old, or even earlier! A few primary, and even some secondary schools accept applications at birth, and apply a great deal of weight to the date of application. They include:

  • Kellett
  • German Swiss International School (GSIS)
  • French International School (FIS)

“Primary” schools accept children anywhere between three and six years old. All government and aided schools start at six, as well as a few private schools running an international curriculum.

A few other schools do accept applications from birth, but do not apply any weight to the date of application.

Many other schools have preschools attached to them. When it comes to selecting children for Year 1 or Reception of primary, they give priority to children enrolled in their preschool. These include:

  • Harrow
  • Yew Chung International School (YCIS)
  • Kingston
  • Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA)
  • Kiangsu & Chekiang International School (KCIS)
  • Anfield School
  • Think International School

Most of these preschools have programmes for two year olds and a few have playgroups attached that start at 6 months old.

Even if the primary schools on your shortlist start at five years old and do not have preschool sections, they may prefer children from certain preschools. Of course, this is unwritten and often denied! For local schools, the choice of preschool is almost always critical.

So you can see that the need to plan early is real! But with a little early planning, you can relax and enjoy the first two to three years until your child is ready to start preschool.

Based on the above, is it essential for my child to attend a feeder kindergarten or preschool to get into a good international school?

No, not at all! Many international schools don’t care too much where your child has gone to kindergarten while for others, it matters more.

There are two main issues to consider:

  • Affiliated schools
  • Language exposure

Affiliated Schools

As mentioned above, a few schools have their own feeder kindergartens and will give priority to their graduates. These include Yew Chung International School (YCIS) Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA), Anfield School and International Montessori School.

Language Exposure

Most international schools require native, or near-native level English language proficiency. For families not speaking English at home and aiming for a mainstream international school, the kindergarten needs to properly prepare the child for interviews.

For families not speaking Chinese at home and aiming for a bilingual school, the same applies.

Ruth is happy to take questions and comments from Sassy Mama readers, so if you have a burning question then please get in touch!

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