International Schools in Hong Kong: How to Choose? (Part I)

December 28, 2017 | Janet Yung

When considering which international school in Hong Kong to attend, factors considered range from school size to location and facilities. In this guide, we focus on one important and often overlooked factor: the type of curriculum and education system offered.

Not all international schools follow the same system, so it’s important to gain an overall understanding of the different curricula. This will influence the learning opportunities, curriculum breadth, and examination style offered at secondary school, and will ideally suit your learning and higher education goals.

This guide, delivered over three parts, will outline and compare three key curriculum and education systems in Hong Kong’s international schools, namely – American, British, and IB – so that you are more equipped to make application and enrollment choices in line with your secondary and tertiary education goals.

Part I: The American Education System

In schools such as Hong Kong International School, American International School, International Christian School

  • Accumulate credits over four years to graduate
  • Advance Placement (AP) courses
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) scoring system

The American system, as the name suggests, aims to deliver an American-style education for students. In order to graduate high school, students must typically accumulate a minimum total number of credits across the final four years of high school (Grade 9 to Grade 12). This is accomplished by taking and passing a number of courses under various disciplines worth a certain amount of credits each.

In addition, international schools following the American system in Hong Kong offer Advanced Placement (AP) programs, usually taken by students in Grades 11 and 12. These are “college-level” courses with standardized exams held around May of each year. Students who aspire to apply to top universities and/or challenge themselves with college-level curriculum are recommended to take AP course options where available.

Students will also be assessed and graded for the courses they take, and this will result in a grade point score. The final Grade Point Average (GPA) is reflected on school reports at the end of each semester, and will also submitted as part of a university application.

Example – HKIS [1]

To graduate, HKIS requires students to take a minimum of 18 credits worth of courses from Grades 9 – 12 across these specific disciplines: English / Maths / Social Studies / Modern Languages / Religion / Fine Arts / P.E. Students are also given the choice to choose other electives to make at least another 4 credits total. The minimum required to graduate at HKIS is a total of 22 credits.



Our Commentary

Broadly speaking, you can expect a curriculum that is designed to give students a lot of breadth and ability to explore many disciplines. This is ideal for students who enjoy trying out and learning a variety of subjects, and who prefer not to specialize too early. The credit and GPA system is also used at US universities and colleges, so students will familiarize themselves earlier by being exposed to this system at high school.

Another key advantage of choosing an international school that offers an American-style education is that it prepares the student well to apply for US colleges and universities. US colleges and universities will also take AP scores when considering applications, and some institutions [2] will even accept the transfer of AP credits to apply as part of their degree program.

Graduation data from AIS and HKIS show that over half (55% [3]) of AIS’s graduation class of 2016 and more than 80% [4] of HKIS graduation classes from 2014 to 2016 enrolled at higher education institutions in the US.

In parts II and III, we will explore the British and IB curricula respectively.


To find out more about the American education system or Ampla Education’s international school admissions consultancy, contact us at



Janet studied at French International School and German Swiss International School in Hong Kong before attending Wycombe Abbey, a top girls boarding school in the UK. Janet enjoys teaching humanities subjects as well as Business Studies, Economics, English and Maths. Educated in both Hong Kong and England, she has helped students of all ages with interview and entrance exam preparation, university admissions in addition to IGCSE, A-Level and IB exams. Janet studied Land Economy at the University of Cambridge and her extensive work experience enables her to work with students of all ages in an engaging manner.



© Ampla Education  –  Unauthorised use of this material without permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full credit is given to Ampla Education.

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