$1,000,000: The Cost of a Hong Kong Education

As well as tuition fees, what else will you have to pay for a primary or secondary education at one of Hong Kong’s international schools?
$1,000,000: The Cost of a Hong Kong Education
By Carli Allan
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Hong Kong is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive places to send your child to school.

According to a survey undertaken by HSBC in June 2017, families in Hong Kong pay more than HKD 1 million per child for the duration of their education from kindergarten through to the end of undergraduate studies. This covers everything from tuition fees through to school uniform. However, it’s important to note that Hong Kong is also rated one of highest-achieving education systems in the world. According to the Pisa rankings, which are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries, Hong Kong ranks second for maths and reading, and ninth for science.

So, just what can you expect to pay for an education at one of Hong Kong’s international primary and secondary schools?


Tuition fees: English Schools Foundation (ESF)  
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. The ESF has a standard fee structure, which applies to all its kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. At ESF’s primary schools including Kennedy School and Kowloon Junior, fees start at HKD 106,500 in Years 1 and 2 and drop to HKD 89,200 in Years 3 to 6.

Secondary schools including King George V, West Island School and Sha Tin College charge tuition fees of HKD 122,900 for Years 7 to 11, and HKD 129,100 for Years 12 and 13. All ESF schools charge a non-refundable capital levy, which is HKD 38,000 for students entering Year 1 and is reduced on a sliding scale to HKD 3,800 by Year 13.

Until 2016, ESF schools received a government subsidy, which meant that fees were lower compared to other international schools. However, this annual HKD 283 million subsidy from the government is being phased out over the next 13 years. In the 2017-18 academic year, Years 1 and 2 will no longer be subsidised by the government. This helps to explain the higher fee for Years 1 and 2. Parents are already bearing the brunt of this change as ESF fees for 2017-18 were raised between 5.4 and 27.5%

ESF’s two Private Independent Schools – Discovery College and Renaissance College – have a separate fee structure. While the tuition fees are on a par with ESF’s primary schools, both colleges have higher tuition fees for secondary education – at least HKD 20,000 more per year. The two PIS also charge a non-refundable building levy (NBL) – an annual payment of HKD 6,710 at Discovery College and a one-off charge of HKD 50,000 at Renaissance College.


Tuition fees: international schools
Tuition fees vary enormously at Hong Kong’s wide variety of international schools, which are run by independents and global education groups. Primary tuition fees range from HKD 79,000 in Year 1 at Sear Rogers International to HKD 197,000 at Yew Chung International School Primary. The average cost for Year 1 is HKD 137,000.

Primary schools with fees of HKD 160,000 or more for Year 1 include: 

• American School Hong Kong 
• Chinese International School
The Harbour School (The Grove)
Harrow International School Hong Kong
• Hong Kong Academy
Hong Kong International School (Repulse Bay)
• Independent Schools Foundation Academy
Malvern College Hong Kong
Shrewsbury International School 
Stamford American School 
Yew Chung International School 

Primary schools with fees of less than HKD 120,000 for Year 1 include:
• Christian Alliance International School
• Delia School of Canada
Discovery Bay International School
Discovery College
French International School 
• Hong Kong Adventist Academy
HKCA Po Leung Kuk School
• International Christian School
• International College Hong Kong
Renaissance College
• Sear Rogers International School
• Singapore International School 

Secondary tuition fees for Year 7 range from HKD 92,000 to HKD 228,000, and the average cost is HKD 156,000. This rises to an average of HKD 172,000 for college, Years 12 and 13.

Secondary schools with fees of more than HKD 190,000 for Year 7 include:
Chinese International School
Harrow International School Hong Kong
Hong Kong Academy
Independent Schools Foundation Academy
Kellett School (Pok Fu Lam)
Kellett School (Kowloon Bay)
Yew Chung International School 

Secondary schools with fees of less than HKD 125,000 for Year 7 include:
Concordia International School
Delia School of Canada
Hong Kong Adventist Academy
Island School (ESF)
Kiangsu-Chekiang College, International Section
King George V School (ESF)
Sear Rogers International School
Sha Tin College (ESF)
South Island School (ESF)
West Island School (ESF)

Tuition fees at International Baccalaureate (IB) schools tend to be considerably higher, which makes sense. The IB demands more teachers per pupil. It is more resource intensive in general than any other curricula, particularly compared to A Level against the IB Diploma with more subjects taught. Indian curricula (CBSE and ICSE) by contrast are, in general, less resource intensive, and most accommodating to larger classroom sizes and to teachers coming from regions where salaries (in global currency terms) are lower.


Most international schools in Hong Kong sell debentures to parents in exchange for highly sought-after places. Also known as individual nomination rights and capital contributions, this money gives students fast-track entry to a school – something that some parents will feel is a price worth paying. 

Debentures range from HKD 100,000 to as much as HKD 5 million at one of the city state’s top performing schools. The money is used by the school for building improvements, campus facilities and other capital costs. Many schools will offer both corporate and individual debenture and, in most cases, the debenture is refunded when the student leaves the school.


Capital levy
Families of students at most international schools are required to pay an annual capital levy (ACL) – or pay for a debenture. Capital levies, also referred to as capital enrolment fees, are annual non-refundable payments that are charged per student. They range from HKD 6,700 at Discovery College and HKD 10,000 at Singapore International School to as much as HKD 60,000 at Harrow International School.

Other schools including Nord Anglia International School charge a higher one-off non-refundable payment of around HKD 100,000. Some schools will let you pay this in monthly instalments.

Alternatively, schools charge a mandatory refundable debenture; Yew Chung International School, for example, charges families up to HKD 470,000, which is refunded once the student leaves the school.


Mandatory charges
In addition to the tuition fees and capital levy or debenture, be prepared to pay for the following throughout the academic year:

• Application fees – range from HKD 500-3,500

• Assessment fees – range from HKD 500-3,500

• Deposit or entrance fee – charged when you accept a school place, this deposit is HKD 10,000 and HKD 16,000 at ESF primary and secondary schools respectively, and ranges from HKD 10,000-100,000 at other international schools

• Uniform – while the basic school uniform may be quite inexpensive, when you add on the extras such as PE kits, school swim kit and branded towels, school goggles, branded bags, approved shoes, trainers, football boots, lunchboxes, water bottles, hats, and winter/summer uniforms it all adds up. So, budget for around HKD 500-1,500

• Many secondary schools operate a 1:1 technology programme, so you’ll need to budget for the cost of an iPad or laptop

• School trips –  field trips and overnight camps are the norm for many schools, while older children are given a taste of global travel with expeditions and charity fundraisers across South East Asia.
• Exam fees – expect to pay roughly HKD 1,000 for each set of exams

• Learning support fees

• Books

• Graduation fees – approximately HKD 2,000


Optional charges
While these charges are not compulsory, you may want to budget for extras such as school dinners and extra-curricular activities:
• Canteen/school dinners – expect to pay approximately HKD 30 per day for a hot meal and drink

• School transport – an essential service for many parents in Hong Kong, the average bus service costs around HKD 1,000 to 35,000 annually
• Extra-curricular activities – although these are sometimes provided free of charge by the school, some activities are ‘paid for’ services from outside agencies
• Individual music lessons


Sibling discounts
Many schools will offer discounts for siblings, occasionally for the second child but more commonly in Hong Kong for the third child onwards.


Financial assistance scheme
These schemes are available at many schools for families who experience financial hardship due to a sudden and unexpected change in circumstances. 

Click here to read more about scholarships in Hong Kong.

We are seeing a rise in the number of scholarships offered by schools in Hong Kong. Although it's a concept that is still relatively new to the city-state, it is gaining considerable traction. Scholarships can be offered for academic excellence, or talent in music, art, drama or sport. International schools offering scholarships include Harrow International School, Discovery Bay International School, Renaissance College and the new Mount Kelly School Hong Kong.

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