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Is home-schooling a realistic option in Hong Kong?

By ITS Education Asia

Private CandidatesInformation about home schooling options

Is home-schooling a realistic option in Hong Kong?

By Danny Harrington, Founder, ITS Education Asia

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First of all let’s deal with the legal side because there is a general urban myth that home-schooling is illegal in Hong Kong. Not true. There have been cases where home-schoolers have been dealt with by the law but often the context has been missed out once these stories hit the media. In response to a question from Dennis Kwok to Legco back in 2015, EDB stated unequivocally:

“While we [EDB} would not as a rule disallow home-schooling, for the interest of the children, we would examine it case by case taking into account relevant factors on whether the family is likely to be able to provide children with all-round education..… Parents who wish to home-school can write or email to the EDB seeking an assessment.”[1]

So there you go. Home-schooling is allowed. There is a further grey area which is the extent to which expat children are considered to fall under the compulsory school-age laws. The current situation seems to be that expat children are treated much more leniently, particularly those of expats on temporary work-visas. You are always best talking to EDB though.

There are a number of reasons why expat parents may consider home-schooling as their best option in Hong Kong. There is the question of school place availability. It is incredibly difficult to access local schools as the competition for places from local families is so high and there are huge concerns about impact on education of being thrown into a completely different school language and cultural environment. Most expats look therefore to the international school system but there are limited places, dependent on year group, and quite a variety of schools some of which are more popular than others.

Recently, we have also seen more and more expat children with SEN [often certified from the home country] finding it nigh on impossible to secure an appropriate school place. There is plenty of controversy over the provision of SEN in English-medium schools at the moment and for many parents, while the argument rages, they simply have to do something about educating their child and so home-schooling is often the most immediate solution.

The other major factor is cost. An international family coming to Hong Kong these days will usually want their children to experience the opportunity as well. But we mustn’t forget that “international school” in Hong Kong means independent or private school anywhere else and of course the costs are comparable. At USD20,000/child/year up [and as much as USD40,000++] there aren’t all that many families that can find the spare cash to educate one, let alone two or three, children. Home schooling by comparison can be done very cheaply indeed for younger kids and even for children in exam years, such as IGCSE and A-level, getting support online both in terms of materials and expert teachers through live online classrooms doesn’t really need to exceed about USD5000/child/year although deluxe options could take this up to more like USD15,000/child/year. The beauty of the UK IGCSE and A-level is that you can take the exams as a private candidate at times of your own choosing, unlike school GPAs and the IB which can only be taken in mainstream schools.

The key questions are:

To what extent can you as a parent/family provide rich, varied, relevant and stimulating learning?

To what extent should you engage experts to supplement your efforts and your child’s self-learning?

What outcomes do you want for your child, such as the next step, and does that require formal qualifications?

How will you provide for your child’s social development without the ready-made community of a school?

There are a number of home-schooler support groups on Hong Kong and they are easy to find and access through platforms such as MeetUp. In this way you can both network to get the best academic process in place and to deal with the socialising issue. There are at least 33 families currently registered with the EDB for home-schooling but probably upwards of 120 families actually home-schooling and they are putting together an ever-improving support framework.

Home-schooling: it’s not easy, but it’s not illegal and it could just be what you’ve been looking for.

ITS Education Asia is a fully accredited Edexcel centre providing courses, tutorial support and examinations in UK IGCSE and IAL.


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