Childcare and Pre-school Education

Find out about the childcare and schooling options available to parents in Hong Kong, plus information on babysitting services, childminders and mother and toddler groups...

Very small children are often cared for in the home either by parents or by a hired domestic helper, commonly referred to as a maid (amah). Because of the relatively low cost of hiring domestic help and the financial necessity of having two incomes many women quickly return to work.

Both kindergartens and childcare centres provide pre-primary education and care for children under six. Admission to Kindergarten is allowed from age two years and eight months. Childcare centres include crèches, which typically look after infants from birth to two, and nurseries, catering for children aged two to six.

There is no direct passage from a kindergarten into a particular primary school – places must still be applied for via the Primary One Admission System.

Kindergartens

Kindergartens are privately run but all are registered with and supervised by the Education Bureau (EDB). See the website for a free parental booklet on kindergartens.

The Government provides assistance to kindergartens in the form of rent and rates reimbursement to non-profit-making kindergartens, purpose-built kindergarten premises in public housing estates, the Kindergarten Subsidy Scheme, and the refund of fees to needy parents through the Kindergarten Fee Remission Scheme. In addition, it provides training programmes for teachers and principals.

Demand for places can be high so some kindergartens have separate morning and afternoon classes in the same way some primary schools do. Others cater for full-time working mothers with a whole-day service. While most kindergartens' academic calendars run from September to the end of June each year, it is common for them to continue into July or run summer camps.

Recently there has been a much stronger focus on providing high-quality early years' education and staff must be properly trained. There are requirements for a minimum staff to pupil ratio.

International kindergartens

These are kindergartens aimed at non-Chinese speaking children in Hong Kong. The main difference between them and any other type of kindergarten is simply that instruction is in English.

These international kindergartens are often linked to a private primary school. All are fee-paying.

For a list of preschools and kindergartens in Hong Kong, visit the Angloinfo Directory.

Childcare centres

Childcare centres are regulated by the Social Welfare Department under the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau.

Childcare centres provide full-day and half-day services for children aged three to six years. Typical opening hours are 08:00–18:00 Monday to Friday with reduced hours (08:00–13:00) on Saturdays. Some centres also offer additional weekday evening hours or extra hours on Saturdays. It is also possible to make use of these centres on a more ad hoc basis, for example, if parents have appointments and no one else is available.

  • For full details from the SWD on how the childcare services work, plus details of fees and opening hours: Click here

The SWD website has a large number of advice leaflets and application forms for those interested in applying for childcare places. For low-income families, some or all of the fees payable may be reimbursed. The Student Financial Assistance Agency has information on the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme.

Babysitters and Domestic Helpers

There are some more informal childcare arrangements available, such as women providing childcare for a small number of children in their homes. These are not often advertised but friends and colleagues may be able to recommend someone. It is also possible to use the services of some midwifery agencies for babysitting and night-time cover for newborn babies.

There is not a great deal of casual babysitting on offer. It is more common to have hired full-time or part-time domestic help which may include an element of child-minding.

Agencies can provide staff, or friends and colleagues may have recommendations. As families come and go regularly in Hong Kong, supermarket notice boards and local papers often have adverts for people looking for this type of work. The Dollarsaver publication also contains adverts for domestic help.

Toddler Groups

There are many toddler groups in Hong Kong. For information on both home playgroups in a particular area and a comprehensive list of formal playschools, contact The Pre-school Playgroups Association (HKPPA). The HKPPA runs playgroups and pre-schools at various locations in Hong Kong. Their facilities are open to children from 10 months to 6 years.

Many women's groups run mother and toddler groups. For example, the American Women's Association (AWA) organises activities.

For listings of other groups, parents can also consult their Consulate for details. Note that many of these groups are for mum and baby and not for the hired domestic help and baby.