Hong Kong is truly a vibrant international city – a status reflected not only in the role it plays in the immense volume of global trade and investment or financial transactions year after year but also in the thriving sector of international schools. Some 50 schools currently provide curricula of the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Germany, France, Singapore and the International Baccalaureate Organization, meeting the needs of nearly 37,000 non-Chinese speaking students, children of expatriates and local students in the academic year of 2015/2016.
As parents – local and expatriates alike – continue to seek international school places for their children in a city where supply can barely meet demand, it pays to learn about each of the schools, availability of places and whether they are a good fit given a particular curriculum, philosophy and vision. Here are a number of selected high (secondary) schools offering a broad educational experience
By Leon Lee
American International School
The American International School (AIS) is a private, fully accredited co-educational international school in Kowloon Tong, with a student body of 800-plus from early childhood to Grade 12. It is known for a strong college preparatory academic program based on US education standards, and students learn to become “confident, independent and well-rounded.”
High school students normally spend four academic years and must earn a minimum of 24 Carnegie Credits to graduate. They are required to take a full-time schedule of seven courses per year. Besides academic requirements, students must also take part in the mandatory Outdoor Education and Leadership Program, which can start as early as Grade 2, to nurture personal and social growth and to learn leadership skills. Giving back to the community is another key area in their development so there are minimum community service hours as criteria for graduation.
Honor classes are offered starting in Grade 10 and 11 for students anticipating Advanced Placement (AP) classes in their senior year. In 2015, 53 AIS students received 53 Scholar Awards, including 12 with Honors. The fifty-six graduates last year received 170 acceptances from prestigious universities and colleges in the United States and worldwide.
Starting in the academic calendar of 2016-2017, AIS will be one of the very few schools in the world to participate in the US College Board’s AP Capstone Program. The program includes a two-course sequence, AP Seminar and AP Research, and allows students to develop necessary skills for college such as inquiry, research and collaboration. Students who complete AP Seminar and AP Research with scores of 3 or higher, and receive scores of 3 or higher on four AP Exams in subjects of their choosing, will receive an AP Capstone Diploma.
Canadian International School of Hong Kong
Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS) is a private, non-profit co-educational school located in Aberdeen, with more than 1,800 students representing 40 nationalities. It is a fully accredited Pre Reception – Grade 12 International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, emphasizing a complete and immersive IB experience to prepare students for the challenges of post-secondary studies.
Three graduates from the class of 2015 scored a perfect 45 on their IB exams, while another two achieved a score of 44 and 27 other had a score between 40 and 43. In total, ninety-three percent scored above the world average of 29 points, and all graduates were awarded both their IB and Ontario Secondary School diplomas. 71 percent were accepted to universities of their first choices, with 59 percent going to one of the Top-100 universities in countries including the UK, US and Canada.
In addition to a focus on academic achievements, CDNIS has established strong partnerships with external organizations to give their students experiences that go beyond traditional classroom learning. More than 70 after-school activities in sports, art and academics allow their students to explore and expand their skills and knowledge.
Chinese International School
Chinese International School (CIS) is a dynamic dual-language learning community located on Braemar Hill on Hong Kong Island. The school was established in 1983, and today it offers an international curriculum in English and Mandarin for students aged 4-18 (Reception to Year 13, or Pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 equivalent).
Students are taught to develop a strong command of English and Chinese Mandarin, and they take classes in both languages throughout their years of enrollment. From early on through Year 6 (Grade 5), the amount of time spent in each language is equally divided, with more English progressively introduced. In the secondary years, students follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years and Diploma Programs.
Year 10 students (Grade 9) spend a year studying abroad at Hangzhou CIS in Zhejiang Province and are able to be fully immersed in Chinese culture and language while continuing their education in English within the framework of the internationally recognized IB Middle Years Programme (IBMYP).
The student population of 1,500 is very stable, with about five percent turnover per year. Graduates go on to leading universities worldwide, with approximately 50 percent choosing schools in the US, 30 percent in the UK, and 10 percent each in Hong Kong and Canada.
Concordia International School
Concordia International School (CISHK) is a private, non-profit school which has offered an American-based curriculum for over 25 years. Located in Yau Yat Chuen in Kowloon, it has a small, yet diverse student body as the campus accommodates a maximum of 100 students yearly. For the last 20 years, CISHK has maintained total enrollment of about 90 students and an average size of classes of 15 students. The school has been approved as a candidate for accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The foundation of the high school program is based on the US College Board’s SAT (formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test) and AP curriculum specifications. All students in Grade 10 and 11 sit for the PSAT test, and Grade 11 and 12 students take the SAT and TOEFL tests. Many students also choose to take AP and subject-specific SAT exams.
CISHK is associated with Concordia Universities in the United States, providing an excellent foundation for further study. Students are mentored in university application processes to help with their transition. Their graduates have pursued further study in the Americas, Europe, Oceana, East and Southeast Asia.
Students participate yearly in league sports, including cross-country, volleyball, basketball, badminton and soccer as well as other extra-curricular activities such as History Bee and Bowl as well as The World Scholar’s Cup.
Delia School of Canada
With over 1,400 students of more than 45 nationalities, Delia School of Canada (DSC) in Taikoo Shing follows a curriculum from Pre-Grade 1 through Grade 12 accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education, Canada. The mission of DSC is the “pursuit of educational excellence” in guiding students to become citizens in a global community, providing them with opportunities to develop their intellectual, physical and social skills.
To graduate from high school with the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), students must earn 30 credits made up of 18 compulsory credits and 12 optional credits. Students are also required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service and involvement, and to meet the literacy standards of the Ontario Secondary Literacy Test (OSSLT).
Similar to other prominent schools in Hong Kong, graduates of DSC are accepted to prestigious universities around the world, including those in Hong Kong, Canada, USA, the UK, and Saudi Arabia, among others.
For after-school extracurricular activities, there are a range of sports, art- and academic-related offerings, including soccer, art, ICT, Chinese Culture, choir, Dragon Math and Model UN. As a member of the International Sports Federation of Hong Kong, teams of the school participate in basketball, ball hockey, volleyball, and rugby competitions.
English Schools Foundation
The English Schools Foundation (ESF) is the largest provider of English-medium international education in Hong Kong. Students in Year 9 to Year 11 of the five secondary schools take either UK GCSEs or International GCSE courses. English Language, Mathematics, Sciences courses are all compulsory. By the end of year 9, students have the opportunity to select between four and six options from a broad range of subjects. For Year 12 and 13 students, the main pathways are the IB Diploma and the Applied Learning. Highly personalized courses of study are available for a small number of students with special needs.
The IB Diploma allows students to study six subjects, generally three at higher level and three at standard level, as well as a Theory of Knowledge course, an Extended Essay and a Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) component. The Applied Learning Pathway is built upon the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications, and it meets the needs of students who enjoy and do best with a more practical style of learning.
In 2015, 934 Year-13 students completed the IB Diploma: 98.5 percent of students achieved the full IB Diploma; 61.5 percent scored 35 or more IB points, and 25.1 percent had 40 or more points. The average was 35.7 total points, while 17 students achieved a perfect score of 45 points. The Bilingual Diploma was awarded to 121 students. At the same time, 94 Year-13 students from King George V School, Island School, South Island School and West Island School successfully completed the Applied Learning Pathway.
Harrow International School Hong Kong
Harrow International School Hong Kong is the first international boarding and day school in Hong Kong. Opened in September 2012, the school is well known for its crescent-shaped building and custom-built facilities near the Gold Coast in Tuen Mun. So far, it has a population of 1,115 students, from early years to Year 13, in its Lower School and Upper School.
The school is an integration of educational philosophy, practice and traditions. Curriculum during Year 9 to Year 11 is based on IGCSE courses; and curriculum during Year 12 to Year 13 is based on A-level courses over a period of two years, together with the Extended Project Qualification and the school’s own Harrow International Perspectives course.
Last year, 52.2 percent of Year 11 students scored an “A” in their IGCSE examinations. Out of 44 students, 21 received five or more “A” grades. In the A-Level examinations, 25 Year-13 students received a combined 86 “A” grades in 14 subjects; 19 earned two or more “A” grades; and no student received a grade below a “C” at the same time.
Harrow Hong Kong graduates have been very successful in gaining places at top universities in the UK, US and Hong Kong. Among the conditional offers gained by the current class of Year 13 students, there are six from Cambridge, two from Oxford and seven from the London School of Economics.
Hong Kong Academy
The Hong Kong Academy (HKA), with a spacious 5.9-acres campus in Sai Kung, is an independent, International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for students from early childhood up to Grade 12 in primary, middle and diploma programs. HKA’s globally-sourced curriculum emphasizes whole-child, inquiry-based learning and is independent of any particular national curriculum. HKA is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Diversity and inclusion are two key areas of focus for the school: all students – including those with learning needs, or requiring language acquisition support, and those receiving enriched offerings – learn in the same classroom. Approximately 15 percent of the 630-plus students of HKA receive some form of “Learner” or “English Language Support.” Students – and faculty members – come from all parts of the world as no one single nationality represents a majority among the student body.
The school has three types of diploma for its secondary students: a HKA Diploma with Full IB Diploma, a HKA Diploma with up to six IB Certificates and a HKA Diploma. A minimum of 23 credits as well as a Reflective Project, Work Experience and Creativity, Action & Service (CAS) are required for graduation. Outside the classroom, co-curricular activities include visual and performing arts, sports, debate, service learning and action groups such as Student Council and Sustainability Council.
In January 2016, HKA became a member of the Global Citizen Diploma (GCD) consortium and is the only school in Hong Kong to offer such program. The GCD focuses on student-led service learning and responsible action.
Hong Kong International School
Hong Kong International School (HKIS) has a long history in Hong Kong: it has provided an American-style education grounded in the Christian faith across two campuses on the south side of Hong Kong Island since 1966. As a private, co-educational college preparatory school for students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, it is an inclusive learning environment for over 2,600 students of 40 nationalities and diverse religious backgrounds.
HKIS has over 25 Advanced Placement (AP) subjects available to its high school students. Students normally complete high school in four years after earning a minimum of 22 units of credit. Eighteen credits must come from classes in English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, Fine Arts, Religion and World Languages, and the remaining credits can be earned via electives.
Besides academics, a wide variety of extracurricular activities – ranging from community service, care for the environment, to photography and journalism – are well established. Their award-winning bands and athletics teams regularly participate in competitions both nationally and internationally. There is also an Interim program every year for students to engage in a weeklong, off-campus learning experience with which learning results can be applied in their studies.
Their graduates can be found at the world’s top universities, and many are accepted on full or partial scholarships. Close to 85 percent of HKIS students attend US institutions including Ivy League schools. HKIS is accredited by the US Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is a member of the East Asia Regional Conference of Overseas Schools (EARCOS).
International Christian School
International Christian School (ICS) first opened its doors for Grades 6-11 in 1992 with only 56 students on a “small, run-down campus” inside Bethel Seminary in Kowloon City. Over the span of a quarter century, ICS has grown to become a school of well over 1,000 students with a 6,300-square meter campus in Shek Mun, Shatin. Besides offering students a broad range of learning opportunities based on a North American curriculum, it places a great emphasis on the interpersonal dimension of learning based on the belief that “learning is the result of interaction between people, ideas and experience.”
The academic program is one which challenges students in a wide range of subjects, including 19 Advanced Placement (AP) classes and 16 honors-level courses in art, music, language, math and sciences. In 2014, 153 students sat for a total of 298 AP exams and were able to achieve a 94 percent passing rate with a score of 3 or above on a 5-point scale. ICS’s Fine & Performing Arts program is particularly noteworthy and is well known for its choir, band, art, and drama projects, including the course in Theatre Technology.
ICS’s High School is based on four academic years of attendance, and students must earn at least 25 units of credit and must complete successfully a “Week without Walls,” an annual program which targets different kinds of learning in various locations with a service component, in order to graduate. Extracurricular programs range from basketball to French, from Harvard Model Congress to Spiritual Discernment. As a Christian school, ICS also has school camps, weekly chapels, and a Bible curriculum.
International College Hong Kong
The International College Hong Kong (ICHK), situated in the New Territories, is specifically for students from Years 7 to 13. It is an IB World School and a member of the Council of International Schools and of the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools. The school has a particular focus on innovation in learning and has come up with a unique and stimulating curriculum to help students learn that success is a result of effort, commitment, perseverance and resilience, rather than latent intelligence or talent.
From Years 7 to 9, students follow the UK National Curriculum with subjects including English, Science, Humanities, ICT/Media and Human Technologies. In Years 10 and 11, the program of study leads to GCSE and IGCSE qualifications while also preparing students for the challenging two-year course of study IBDP offered in Years 12 and 13.
In 2015, 40.5 percent of ICHK students scored an “A” in the IGCSE while students in the IBDP achieved an average of 30.5 out of the possible 45 points, collectively above the global average. All of their graduates were accepted to their first-choice universities – a key initiative of the school.
Taking advantage of its rural surroundings in the New Territories, extra-curricular activities focus on outdoor education and appreciation of the natural environment. Sailing, horse riding, gardening and other environmentally green undertakings are what students can do. Others include sports, performing arts, community action and school radio.
Kellett School, the British International School in Hong Kong, was founded in 1976 as a not-for-profit association providing a British-style education to English speakers in Hong Kong. It is a through-train school – meaning enrolled students normally go through their primary and secondary years at the same school – and has some 1,200 students on two campuses in Pok Fu Lam and Kowloon Bay.
The Pok Fu Lam campus is a preparatory school (age 4-11) located in Hong Kong’s southern district of Wah Fu, while the Kowloon Bay campus is for both preparatory and senior places. The school also guarantees all Kellett preparatory students a place in the secondary section, with a capacity of up to 600 places. Kellett School follows the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and English National Curriculum which begins in Reception (early childhood) and runs all the way to Year 13. The academic program is based on GCSE, IGCSE and A-Level.
The school’s philosophy is that a broad curriculum embraces creativity, hence the need for participation in arts and sports as something supplementary to high academic achievement and to the development of a student as a whole. Extra-curricular activities include local and overseas educational visits, a rich repertoire of performing arts opportunities, sports and activities of general interest.
Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong
Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong (NAIS) is part of a global family of 42 international schools located in 15 countries, including those in China, Europe, the Middle East, North America and Southeast Asia. It opened a campus in Lam Tin in September 2014 and follows the English National Curriculum in Years 1 – 9. From Years 10 to 13, students work towards the University of Cambridge IGCSEs and the IB Diploma during their final years.
With over 32,000 students worldwide, each student is encouraged to learn and collaborate with one another via the school’s Global Campus. It consists of three distinct areas of learning: Online, In School and Worldwide. With the online campus, students are assigned challenging activities, discussions and tailored resources to promote their own learning.
The average IB Diploma score of NAIS students was 33.5 points, compared with the 2015 global average of 29.9 points. One in three of the school’s graduates go on to attend one of the world’s top 100 universities.
In June, NAIS will become the first school in a partnership with the prestigious performing arts institution, The Juilliard School. The extensive curriculum begins with music and consists of a Julliard-curated repertoire comprising of 12 core categories to explore a range of genres, styles and cultures. As such, students will have access to Juilliard’s network of performers and teachers through workshops, classes and performances.
Victoria Shanghai Academy
Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA), a private independent school for over 1,800 students, is the first “through-train” IB World School in Hong Kong to offer International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. The primary section runs a model of bilingual education (English and Putonghua) while the secondary curriculum is delivered in English and supplemented by a strong Chinese program.
Throughout the academic years, students organize and participate in a wide range of activities locally and globally, and programs are designed to broaden their horizons and to help develop a greater sense of social responsibility so that they can become internationally-minded individuals. Activities are anchored on Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) in various locations – students take part in Model United Nations debates and other international and cultural events such as those organized by the International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA).
Academically, in 2015 VSA students scored an average of 35.2 points in their IB examinations, including an “ace” of 45 points, and more than 20 percent of graduates obtained 40 or above. It was the school’s fourth consecutive year of achieving 100 percent pass rate among its graduates. Every year, VSA graduates receive offers from prestigious institutions; most notable are Oxford University, University of Cambridge, UCLA and University of Toronto.
Yew Chung International School
Yew Chung International School (YCIS) is a blend of Western and Eastern cultures, and students get to learn in an international, multicultural, and bilingual environment. The school is led by two co-principals, one of Western cultural background and another of Chinese decent, who work as a pair to create an atmosphere conducive to a deep understanding of cultural diversity, global awareness and to the development of linguistic skills in both English and Chinese among students.
Established in 1932, YCIS is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC); it is also an authorized Cambridge International Examinations Centre (CIE) and IB World School. Students in the IBDP are required to complete six subjects satisfactorily, plus Theory of Knowledge as well as the subject of Creativity, Activity & Service (CAS), and to submit an extended essay. The school boasts a 100 percent university placement, with graduates attending schools in the US, UK, and Canada. Graduates of the class of 2016 received an average of four offers of university admission.
Through a multi-faceted co-curricular program (CCP) which allows students to develop new skills and interests and to build collaboration and teamwork in a “fun and enriching” way, YCIS puts students in a variety of extracurricular activities for students in Years 2 to Year 13. The CCP is offered in two sessions per year, recently including choirs, orchestras and bands as well as productions of drama and musicals.