WhichSchoolAdvisor.com combines all the information you need – based on our experience of visiting US schools in Hong Kong and interviews with their school leaders – to help you decide if an American education is right for your child.
There are eight US curriculum schools in Hong Kong, and they remain a popular choice for many parents, especially if they have ambitions for their children to attend a prestigious college or university in the US. These US schools include American International School, Concordia International School, American School Hong Kong, Hong Kong Adventist Academy, Hong Kong International School, International Christian School, Stamford American School, Hong Kong, and The Harbour School.
These are schools where homerooms, advisory lessons, (and sometimes even baseball) are all part of the daily conversation. Students are enrolled into Grades rather than Year groups; and the academic year follows the US two semester system. They have the look and feel of an American school (some certainly more than others) and celebrations such as Thanksgiving feature as prominently as local festivals. But these schools are certainly not cookie cutters of each other. They are unique, each with their own strengths.
You don’t need to have an American passport to apply, either. These schools are open to students of all nationalities – for example, the number of students from the US is less than 15% at ASHK and AIS, while at HKIS the number is over 50%. It’s also not unusual to find a higher proportion of teachers from the US here (at AIS, about 30% are American).
Read more: US Curriculum Schools: What You Need To Know
One of the oldest American schools in Hong Kong is American International School (AIS) (pictured above), which has just celebrated its 35th anniversary. This all-through school in Kowloon offers an American education (it’s one only a few schools to offer the full AP and Capstone programme in Hong Kong), it has the bald eagle in its logo, fields sports teams called The Eagles, and has a large percentage of American teachers.
That said, the non-profit AIS is very much an international school, which is built more on the foundations of a supportive learning environment and strong sense of connectedness than its curriculum. Director of Learning Innovation at AIS, Kathy Abel, explains.
"We are a very good school for feeling connected, it’s very homely. We really value the sense of community within the school and, because we are all on one campus, there is a lot of collaboration between the elementary, middle and high schools.
"The skills we are teaching are universal; students learn to read, to write, they’ll have maths, visual and performing arts, and PE. Our core business is developing confidence in students through a challenging and creative curriculum that is in line with the best US standards to fit our students.”
Elsewhere, Stamford American School is one of Hong Kong’s newest US schools. It opened in 2017 with a standards-based, inquiry-led American curriculum that includes a unique Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Innovation (STEMinn) programme. It is also one of two US schools here to offer its students the choice of graduating with the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) or a High School Diploma, or both. The other is American School Hong Kong (ASHK), which opened in 2016 and has a daily Chinese programme with multiple streams and a strong focus on STEAM alongside its US curriculum; it also offers several annual scholarships.
There are also several US schools with a Christian heritage. Hong Kong Adventist Academy (HKAA) offers a Christian education that combines US, UK and Hong Kong curricula from kindergarten through to Grade 12; students work towards graduating with a US high school diploma issued by the Griggs International Academy (GIA) in Maryland State. Founded more than 50 years ago, Hong Kong International School offers a US college-prep education with AP programmes that is rooted in Christian values. And International Christian School has a reputation for its Christian-focused, US style education for two to 18-year-olds at a modern campus in the New Territories.
Concordia International School is Hong Kong’s only standalone secondary America school; located in Kowloon, it has a large community of Chinese, Korean and Japanese expat students. And The Harbour School (THS) adopts a very unconventional approach to learning that welcomes both gifted students and children with special needs; while THS offers an American curriculum that is based on AERO Standards, its curriculum is first and foremost “student-centric”.
THS Principal Dr Jadis Blurton explains:
"We’re accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and we follow the US curriculum – but with a very bespoke approach. That’s partly because we’re international, partly because we’re inclusive, and partly because we believe very strongly in flexible best practice.
"We don’t believe that everything should be hands-on, or discussion and debate, or lectured, or online. Instead, we want to choose the best method for whatever it is we’re teaching."
Next: What will my child learn in the American curriculum?