The Top Bilingual All-Through Schools in Hong Kong
Updated: Apr 20
Preparing for our children’s education is a daunting task, it’s one of the most important jobs we have as parents. One of the most important things a child needs to acquire at a young age is the ability to communicate.
Research has shown that a bilingual education has positive development effects on the human brain, and neurologists have been able to verify this through highly sophisticated brain-imaging technologies. Children have higher attention spans and enhanced learning abilities, as the frontal lobe of the brain becomes more active. This has resulted in bilingual learners outperforming single language learners in terms of multi-tasking, problem solving and concentration.
In a metropolitan city such as Hong Kong, where East meets West, learning Mandarin has become equally (if not more) important than learning English. We all know that children have an innate ability to pick up new languages quickly at a young age. Thus, truly bilingual schools that integrate a respectable Mandarin/English for program are hard to find. While many primary and secondary schools offer Mandarin, an hour a day at school is not really enough for those that are seeking fluency. That being said, languages need to be reinforced inside and outside of the classroom. Looking down the road, it’s often a common requirement that job candidates are required not just to be bilingual, but fluent, in Mandarin and English.
Parents need to ask questions and do their research – i.e. how many hours are taught in both languages at the primary and secondary level? How many native Mandarin and English teachers are there in the school? Does each classroom have two teachers that are proficient in those languages? What are the testing requirements for students in their non-native language? How much support is given outside of class? How do parents facilitate their children’s learning at home?
We’ll examine a couple of Hong Kong international schools that offer a true bilingual program and how they stand out from the others.
One of the pre-eminent IB international schools in Hong Kong, CIS offers a rigorous bilingual education for children from Reception to Year 13. CIS was the first school to implement an international curriculum offering both English and Mandarin, and the primary school gives equal importance to both languages and teaches all subjects in both languages. Each primary classroom has one English teacher and one Mandarin teacher. As students move to secondary, the curriculum shifts to mainly English but there are additional Mandarin lessons available as well as a unique year long program in Hangzhou, which Year 10 students attend.
With an average IB score of 38 at CIS, students are high achievers in this elite academic institution.
Primary – 50/50 English/Mandarin, Secondary 70/30 English Mandarin, Traditional Characters.
Another academically strong and demanding international school in Hong Kong, SIS offers a bilingual curriculum in a very academic environment. Students are expected to perform above and beyond – there is a heavy emphasis on the Core Subjects such as Mandarin, English, Maths, Science and Social Studies. Parents need to be prepared to assist with children’s homework at the primary level (long hours!). Although primarily a school that caters to Singaporean students, it is a very large school that caters to non-natives as well. At the secondary level, English is used primarily in the classroom, but those that have advanced Chinese can still hone their language skills in specialized classes. The secondary curriculum involves the IGCSE followed by the IB Diploma.
Primary – 50/50 English/Mandarin, Secondary 70/30 English/Mandarin, Simplified Characters.
ISF is a non-profit private independent school that is one of the top IB schools in Hong Kong. With more than two-thirds of its graduates achieving the coveted Bilingual Diploma (twice the global average). At the primary level, classes are conducted at 70% Mandarin and 30% English, until secondary where the focus shifts back to 70% English and 30% Mandarin. The school has very deep Chinese values yet offers a very international curriculum, offering the best of both worlds. ISF also has a pre-school, which is heavily focused on both languages as well. The goal of ISF is for their graduates to achieve literacy and fluency at a native level, and equipping them with the necessary language skills to be able to graduate into top Western universities or Mainland China.
Primary – 30/70 English/Mandarin, Secondary 70/30 English/Mandarin, Simplified Characters.
YCIS provides a bilingual education for children aged 6 months to 18 years. The preschool is based in English and Cantonese, whilst the primary school switches to English and Mandarin. The primary school is based on the National Curriculum for England with additional extensive Chinese Language and Culture Programme, as well as the school’s Character Education Programme. The senior school follows an IGCSE and IB Diploma curriculum.
Primary – 50/50 English/Mandarin, Secondary 70/30 English/Mandarin, Simplified & Traditional Characters.
VSA also provides a strong bilingual curriculum starting from their affiliated Victoria Kindergartens (all the way to senior school). VSA only accepts graduates of Victoria Kindergarten into their Primary One program, so it’s important to get into their kindergartens at an early age. Given the large number of kindergartens and limited primary spaces at VSA, competition is fierce. The primary school is equally weighted in both Mandarin and English, while English becomes the more dominant language used for secondary (Mandarin can be taken as a supplemental course in).
With an average IB score of 38 points in 2018-19, it is strong academically, with nearly half of their graduating students being awarded the Bilingual Diploma as well.
Primary – 50/50 English/Mandarin, Secondary 80/20 English/Mandarin, Simplified Characters.
A dark horse school that needs to be respected for it’s academic achievements, PLKCKY is an all-thru private independent school for students aged 7-18 years old. Certainly, the tuition fees are much more favourable compared to other international schools, with the same level of bilingual support given to all students. At the primary level, classrooms have both English and Mandarin teachers, supplemented with Cantonese. 60% of the teachers are native English speakers while 40% are native Mandarin speakers. The curriculum to IGCSE and IB later in the senior years.
With an outstanding average IB score of 39 points in 2018-19, 93% of the graduating class received the Bilingual Diploma, which is multiple times higher than the global average.
Primary – 50/50 English/Mandarin, Secondary 60/40 English/Mandarin, Simplified/Traditional Characters.