Although the choice is limited, parents are offered a more affordable alternative in Hong Kong from schools with annual tuition fees of less than HKD 110,000. These lower-cost options range from the well-established UMAH International Primary School to the more recent opening of HKCA Po Leung Kuk School – and from August 2019, the new Invictus International School.
Parents looking for a more affordable education have the choice of schools offering the UK National Curriculum, the International Baccalaureate programme, the Hong Kong curriculum and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). There are also schools offering IGCSEs, A Levels and the IBDP.
Although the majority of schools offering fees below HKD 110,000 are primary, there are some secondary schools with affordable fees including Sear Rogers International School, Korean International School (International Stream) and California School.
Hong Kong’s most affordable schools are located across the city, and there are choices in Kowloon, the New Territories and Hong Kong Island. For the most cost-conscious parents, location is an important factor as it can save a small fortune on school transport fees.
As you'd expect from schools with lower tuition fees, they tend to have smaller, older, more basic campuses. This is not always a negative. Many of the schools listed in the next few pages have a small student body that doesn't need a sprawling campus anyway; also, what some of these schools lack in terms of Olympic-size swimming pools and state-of-the-art theatres, they make up for in terms of creative use of space, small class sizes, a close-knit community and charm. For example, parents at Lantau International School are drawn to its very green and natural setting; and families at HKCA can enjoy small class sizes as the school establishes itself.
So, be reasonable and decide what you can and can't live without. Do you think the bells and whistles of premiums fee schools are vital for your child, or that a good value education focusing on the classroom is all that really matters?
Schools operated by the English Schools Foundation (ESF) have a reputation for offering some of the lowest tuition fees within Hong Kong’s private school sector. However, fees are rising at its primary and secondary schools due to the loss of ESF's annual HKD 283 million subsidy from the government; this started to be phased out three years ago and will last for a period of 13 years.
So, while the 2019-20 fees for Years 5-6 are HKD 98,500, tuition fees in Years 1-4 are slightly higher at HKD 115,800; from 2020-21 the fees for Years 5-6 will also rise above HKD110,000. This affects all ESF primary schools including Beacon Hill, Sha Tin Junior, Bradbury, Peak School, Glenealy, Clearwater Bay, Quarry Bay and Kennedy.
Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools are private primary and secondary schools that receive a subsidy from the government for local students. Fees are typically below HKD 110,000 at DSS schools for local students but international students pay a higher fee which ranges from HKD 130-190,000 in secondary.
DSS schools are required by the Education Bureau to offer “a curriculum targeted at local students and prepare them for local examinations”; however, they do have the freedom to offer international programmes including IGCSEs, A Levels and the IB programme. Some teach in English and offer a choice of mainstream or elementary Chinese as a second language; others teach in Chinese and follow the Hong Kong curriculum that leads to the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE).
There are more than 50 DSS primary, secondary and all-through schools. While the majority of DSS schools attract local students and Chinese-speaking families, some have a small international student body. Parents should be aware, though, that the admissions test often requires students to be proficient in Chinese.
Here’s our roundup of international schools in Hong Kong with annual tuition fees of under HKD 100,000 – more than half the price of the city's most expensive schools.
Next: Where are the top affordable primary schools in Hong Kong?