Kowloon Tong, located in the district with the most kindergartens in Hong Kong, was packed with people and cars on a Saturday morning – a busy pre-school interview day. Parents and their children flooded into the area and attended interviews for different kindergartens, hoping to secure a place at their ideal kindergartens.
Bella Yuen, a 2-year-old girl holding a deformed cupcake in a stroller, just came out from the York English & Chinese Kindergarten (York), one of the most famous kindergartens in the territory. She and her parents set off from Yuen Long early this morning and traveled for more than an hour to attend the interview.
According to her mother, Mancy, this was Bella’s fourth interviews already, but there were still two more to go.
“If we want to get into a private primary school, they may look at which kindergarten you graduate from. And it makes a difference ”
Kindergarten interviews are arranged to test the potential and eligibility of the kids. York actually posted a pre-interview quiz online for parents and children to prepare for the day.
The interview of this kindergarten was divided into a few parts. At first, toddlers would be guided by a mandarin speaking teacher to decorate cupcakes. Not only was it to test the kids’ creativity, but more importantly, it was to see how well they would react to mandarin instructions. Secondly, children were divided into groups to play with different toys. Teachers then observed their sociability and personality to see if they are suitable for the school. According to Mancy, some children even cried as they were forced to play with other children or toys that they did not like.When asked if Bella were stressed about all these interviews, she simply replied, “we parents are even more stressed.”
Getting into a ‘good’ kindergarten can be very competitive. Take York English & Chinese Kindergarten as an example, the school is taking in around 200 students among thousands of applications. On the official school website, they even encourage parents to apply the school once their children are born, because they have received too many applications.That is one of the main reasons why Hong Kong parents are as stressful as Mancy. Families used to hunt good universities for their kids, but now the hunt has broadened to good kindergartens, as they believe their children can then enter better primary schools, middle schools and universities.
According to a survey that interviewed 600 parents with toddlers, over 70% of them have applied more than 3 kindergartens for their children; 13% of them have even applied more than 7 kindergartens. This phenomenon comes from a common perception that Hong Kong parents have – studying in a famous kindergarten will be beneficial to their children when they apply for primary schools or even universities.
Parents applied more than 3 kindergartens
Parents applied more than 7 kindergartens
That is why kindergartens are likely to post-graduation statistics on their websites, so as to build up a good reputation and attract more applications. Both York English & Chinese Kindergarten (York) and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong Nam Cheong Kindergarten (ELCHK) posted a pie chart to show schools that accepted their graduates. While most of York’s graduates were accepted by ‘top’ primary schools, ELCHK’s graduates were mostly accepted by local primary schools. This explains why parents are willing to line up and fight for a place at those so-called famous kindergartens.
Due to the typical impression that the more expensive the school fee, the better the quality the school is, some Hong Kong parents still tend to choose schools with greater school fee.
Kindergarten school fee can vary drastically depending on whether they can use education voucher for payment. School fee ranges from HKD 177,400 for Yew Chung Children’s House’s whole day lower kindergarten class (the most expensive school; school voucher not applicable) to HK$0 for Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong Nam Cheong Kindergarten’s whole day lower kindergarten class (the cheapest school fee; school voucher applicable).
Despite all these, some Hong Kong parents start to doubt the whole perception or phenomenon of pushing their children too early. Tinny Hong, both a mother and kindergarten teacher, shares her different opinion on the growing pressure on parents and the phenomenon of pushing their children into good kindergartens.Speaking for Hong Kong parents who want their kids to grow freely and naturally, she said, “my children will not be more superior just because I pay a certain amount and get him into a prestigious school.”
“From my point of view, the influence to children is more from family than from school.”
Yuk Sing Yeung