The Cost of an International Education in Hong Kong
The local education system in Hong Kong may not be for everybody, but if parents are looking for alternatives, Hong Kong has a plethora of international schools. While these schools in Hong Kong offer a wide range of curricula from different countries, they often command high tuition fees, annual levies and debentures.
It would cost an estimated HK $2.7M for each child to go through the international school system for the full 12 years, and that doesn’t include the playgroup and international kindergarten costs yet. However, it is common for parents to start sending children to international school related playgroups and kindergartens to get a leg up on the competition, and the costs can range from $7,000 - $20,000 a month, all for the sake of ensuring entry into their affiliated primary and secondary schools down the road.
Although tuition fees need to be approved by the Education Bureau (increases are capped at 20% per year), some schools continue to increase their fees at an average rate of 4% - 10%. This is a staggering number if you compound this year after year.
For 2019-20, the EDB approved an increase in annual tuition fees at the English Schools Foundation (ESF) of an average of 4.5%. The ESF has traditionally set the bar with international schools in Hong Kong, having the most extensive network across Hong Kong with five kindergartens, nine primary schools, five secondary schools, two Private Independent school and a specialist school. They are known for providing a quality international education at a “cheaper” price compared to other schools – that being said, Tuition fees in Years 1-3 at ESF’s primary schools have risen from HKD 111,200 to HKD 115,800 per year; Year 4 fees increases by HKD 21,900 from HKD 93,900 to HKD 115,800; and Years 5 to 6 went up from HKD 93,900 to 98,500.
At other international schools, the approved increases vary. For example, fees for Year 1 have risen by 3.9% from HKD 186,700 to HKD 194,000 at Hong Kong Academy; by 6% from HKD 205,500 to HKD 217,900 at Chinese International School; and by 4.9% from HKD 164,400 to HKD 172,600 at Kellett School.
It doesn’t stop there. Although the EDB puts a yearly cap of 20% on tuition fees, they do not regulate other fees such as levies, debentures or application fees. Levies are an additional ‘tax’ that schools charge, and could end up costing 20% or more each year. Debentures are an interest free loan you pay to the school in which they hold for you over the duration of your child’s schooling at that school, with some debentures are priced from HKD 100,000 up to HKD 10,000,000 – while each school has different pricing structures, it is quite daunting for first time parents when they start selecting schools for their child.