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Your Ultimate Guide to Primary One Application in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a city of diversity. As an Asia’s World City, Hong Kong offers a myriad of choices for schooling options for your child. Here’s the ultimate guide to answer all your questions about the primary school admission in Hong Kong!

Know the various school types available in Hong Kong:

  1. Public Local Schools: You can get free primary education in government and aided schools. These schools teach with English Medium Instruction (EMI) or Chinese Medium Instruction (CMI) and adapt to the local curriculum.
  2. Direct-Subsidy School (DSS) : This is one of the most popular options that most Hong Kong local parents opt for. Each school has their own tuition fees but it’s more affordable than international schools. These schools are free to decide on their own curriculum and admission requirements. All students are required to participate in The Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) .
  3. Private School: These schools are not run by the government however they mainly cater to local Chinese students. Admissions are based on the student’s academic performance.
  4. International School:  International curriculum , however it charges a much higher tuition fee and teaches in their native language in addition to English. They mainly cater to expats residing in Hong Kong. Students in private international schools are not required to sit for the local public exam.
  5. English Schools Foundation (ESF) : These schools focus on the mainstream with a English medium learning environment. It follows either British curriculum or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. ESF’s school fee is typically lower than international school fee.

All You Need to Know about POA (Primary One Admission) System for government / aided school

If you are open to immerse in the local culture of Hong Kong, local government schools offer world class education through the local curriculum. Not forgetting, it is always an added advantage to be literate in Chinese. Plus it’s practically free of charge. In order to enroll in the local government school, you will need to take part in the Primary One Admission (POA) system for your child.


  • Hong Kong resident
  • Reach 5 years 8 months old as of 1st September of Primary 1 (P1) academic year


  • Those who have been allocated a place in P1 at any primary school previously
  • Children whose parents would like to send them to DSS, private schools or ESF schools.

Do you have a specific primary school preference?

If yes, you may proceed to apply for a discretionary place.

  1. Submit the application form directly to ONE school only wherever in Hong Kong (not subjected to school net) during the period stated by the Education Bureau.
  2. Discretionary places are usually offered if the applicant has another sibling(s) currently studying at the same school or parent(s) who are currently working in the school.
  3. If point no. 2 is not applicable to you, admission selection will be based on the Points System.

Points System:

Point system for POA as explained by EDB on (updated as of December 2020)

4. If your application is successful during the discretionary stage, the school will notify you. You may then proceed to register with the school directly on specified dates by the school. If your application is unsuccessful, you will have to participate in the Central allocation stage.

5. If you are unsuccessful with your application and choose to enroll your child in a DSS school instead, you are not allowed to participate in the Central Allocation Stage.

If you do not have a particular school in mind, you can proceed directly to the Central Allocation Stage.

  1. EDB will notify you in writing to go to a specific central allocation center to provide up to 3 school options they prefer for their child. The 3 options can either be within or out of the school net of your residence.
  2. The computer system will then process your application and allocate a place for your child.
  3. The result will be sent to you via post. You may then proceed to register your child at the allocated school on a specified date.

If you don’t have enough schools in your net catchment area. the Education Bureau (EB) will help you to select schools from the next available neighborhood.

1-1-1 Strategy for Primary School Admission in Hong Kong Explained…

Some parents recommend the 111 tactic. Which means you put your preferred school as the first choice in both 3 sections of the school application. Some parents shared that by doing 111 strategies it shows how much you love the school. They believed it increases your chance during the knocking door stage.

Section A: This is basically the discretionary stage where you apply to ONE preferred school. If you are new to HK, unless you work for the school otherwise this is based on the Point System. This is also subjected to the place availability of the school during this stage.

Section B: This is the central allocation stage where you are allowed to fill in 3 school options. Put the same preferred school in section A as the first option, however you can fill other names in the second and third school choice as well.

BEWARE! If you fill in the same name for all three options, your application form may be voided. They will process all normal application forms first, and then process your allocation with whatever schools left in the pool.

Section C: You may only choose the school net based on your residence address.

A random number will be assigned to each applicant. The computer will then draw the numbers randomly and fill in the school place on a first come first serve basis.

It truly depends on luck if your child’s number gets drawn first, then the chances of you getting into the top preferred choice are higher.

If the school that you really liked is in your catchment area, then fill in the same preferred school as the first option again.

Basically, the 111 strategy means filling the same first preferred school choice in all three sections. Some schools require 111 as a prerequisite for knocking on the door stage.

Last Stage in Primary One Admission in Hong Kong: Knock Door Policy

If you are still unable to secure a place in the school you really wanted in both discretionary and central allocation stage, here’s what you can do as a last attempt : start knocking on the door.

Under normal circumstances, schools have some remaining spots after the Central Allocation Stage by EDB. This could be due to successful applicants withdrawing their applications. The school has discretion to accept and offer the remaining spots which you can apply to at this point. Typically, schools use this chance to gather and admit high performing students to their school.

To up your game in the door knocking stage, proper preparations are necessary. Prepare your child for the interview which may include Chinese reading, listening, Math test and so on.

Check for the specific school’s website for more information to register and submit your portfolio. Portfolio may include report card, school awards, extra curricular photos, parent’s engagement photos, and letter of recommendation from the kindergarten’s principal. Check on the school’s philosophy and write a letter on how your child will be a good fit to the school. Make sure to align your letter to the school’s philosophy.

If you can obtain a recommendation letter from a sponsoring organization or reputable alumnus, you should be able to secure an interview opportunity easily.

Your child will be offered a place or placed in the waiting list according to the ranking from the interview performance.

I hope this information helps you to understand the primary one school admission in Hong Kong, GOOD LUCK!

Remember the 5P’s. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

It can be competitive to secure a place for your child in a good school in Hong Kong but the process is pretty straightforward. You just need to understand the primary one admission system in Hong Kong and prepare accordingly.

Make your research and do your homework early. The best way to find out about a particular school apart from the school’s website is none other than to connect to other parents in Hong Kong.

These are the groups that are very helpful in Facebook that you can join:

Cantonese School Parent’s Group (focused on local schools)

Hong Kong Schools (focused on international schools)

Here’s other helpful websites for your referral:

Other useful websites you may want to look into for more information related to Hong Kong’s primary school admission:

Official Hong Kong Education Bureau’s website

Primary School Rankings

Helpful Parent Academy

Reviews and Ranking of Schools in Hong Kong

Good luck! And don’t forget to click here for more helpful parenting articles.

Featured image photo credit to Max Fischer on Pexels (2020)


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