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Navigating the Admission Process at ESF

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

An Overview and Guide to the Largest English-medium International School Organization in Hong Kong

When it comes to international schools in Hong Kong, ESF (English Schools Foundation) stands out as one of the largest and most reputable institutions. With a strong British foundation and a growing emphasis on the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, ESF offers a unique educational experience for students. In this article, we will dive into the distinct qualities of ESF, its diverse range of schools and programs, and provide valuable insights for parents considering ESF for their child's education. We will also provide a brief overview of the admission process so that families can have a certain level of understanding when applying to ESF.

ESF's Solid Educational Foundation

ESF has earned its reputation as a solid and established educational institution in Hong Kong. Unlike schools that heavily rely on advertising and promotion, ESF focuses on delivering a comprehensive educational experience. With its long-standing history, ESF has developed ample resources, allowing them to offer a wide range of activities to their students. From sports and music to art and volunteer programs, ESF provides a holistic learning environment that nurtures students' interests and passions.

Exploring the ESF Website

ESF encompasses 22 schools, including both primary and secondary campuses. The inter-school competitions and parent-teacher exchanges between different campuses enrich the ESF website, providing a wealth of information and fostering strong communication among students, parents, and teachers. The website not only highlights students' academic achievements and activities but also emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships and parental involvement.

ESF's Educational Spectrum

ESF's educational spectrum encompasses kindergarten, primary schools, and high schools. ESF kindergartens are very popular with limited positions available, regardless of their relatively far locations, such as Clear Water Bay, Wu Kai Sha and Tung Chung. In contrast, ESF primary schools offer more choices and seats, with notable schools like Kowloon Junior School and Sha Tin Junior School, along with Peak School, Bradbury School, and Glenealy School. Primary school students at ESF enjoy a relatively relaxed environment while following an education model that focuses on various assessments, including written work, presentations, speaking, and writing. These assessments reflect the IB system, which sets ESF apart from traditional examination-focused approaches.

ESF's High Schools

ESF's five high schools, including Island School, West Island, South Island, King George V (KGV) in Kowloon, and Sha Tin College, cater to students from Year 7 to Year 11. Following standardized exams, students transition to the IB curriculum in Years 12 and 13. ESF excels in helping students smoothly transition from the English system to the IB program, resulting in consistently high IB grades across their campuses.

Each high school within ESF has its own unique characteristics. For example, Island School, West Island School and South Island School, exhibit a more open culture and emphasize academic activities beyond exams. South Island School is renowned for its excellence in the arts, while Island School and West Island School offer entrepreneurship programs. On the other hand, Sha Tin College has a more conservative culture, with a focus on academic achievement and sending students to prestigious institutions like Oxbridge and Ivy League universities. KGV is relatively more relaxed, with teachers placing less emphasis on grades and encouraging a more well-rounded approach to education.

Specialized ESF Schools

ESF also includes two specialized schools: Discovery Bay College and Renaissance College, both of which offer the IB curriculum. Renaissance College, known for its innovative approach and commitment to student well-being, has gained popularity among students and parents.

The ESF Admission Process

Applying to ESF is a crucial step for families seeking quality international education for their children. Here's a comprehensive overview of the ESF admission process:

  • Research and Gather Information: Begin by exploring the ESF website to understand the various schools, their programs, and admission requirements. Attend information sessions or school open days to gain insights into the ESF educational experience.

  • Determine Eligibility: Ensure that your child meets the eligibility criteria, including age requirements, English proficiency, and any other specific requirements based on the desired grade level.

  • Application Submission: Complete the application form, providing accurate information and necessary documentation, such as academic transcripts, recommendation letters, and proof of residency.

  • School Zone Choices: ESF offers school zone choices, allowing you to select schools based on your residential address. Research the schools within your designated zone and choose accordingly.

In addition, ESF allows applicants to choose two schools outside their designated zone. Consider schools that align with your child's interests, academic goals, and extracurricular activities.

*However, please refer to the following paragraph regarding ESF’s latest announcement of their new policy, effective from 1 August 2023.

  • Application Deadlines: Be aware of the application deadlines for ESF Year 1 and Year 7 admissions. Missing these deadlines may affect your chances of securing a position.

  • Admission Selection: ESF evaluates applicants based on admission requirements and English proficiency. Priority is given to school zone choices. If the first-choice school is unavailable, ESF will consider the second-choice school and make offers based on available positions.

  • Communication and Updates: Stay informed and maintain open communication with ESF throughout the admission process. Check for updates regarding application status, interview schedules, and any additional requirements.

  • Interviews or Assessments: Depending on the grade level and school, applicants may be required to attend interviews or assessments as part of the admission process. Prepare your child accordingly, ensuring they are familiar with the school's values and expectations.

  • Acceptance and Enrollment: If your child receives an offer of admission, carefully review the terms and conditions. Follow the instructions provided to accept the offer and complete the enrollment process within the specified timeframe.

*ESF’s New Zone-free Policy

The English Schools Foundation (ESF) has made a significant announcement regarding their school admissions process. Starting from 1 August 2023, the previous 'zoning' requirement will be eliminated, allowing families to apply for any of ESF's 22 schools regardless of their residential address. This new policy provides greater flexibility and choice for parents in selecting the most suitable school for their children.

This new admissions process will be in operation for families who submit an application on or after 1 August 2023. Parents who are already in the application process prior to this date will be contacted and offered the chance to revise their choice of schools.

For detailed information and answers to common queries, please refer to ESF’s official press release here and a FAQ section here.


In conclusion, ESF's reputation as one of the leading international school networks in Hong Kong is well-deserved. While securing a position in ESF kindergartens can be challenging due to high demand, opportunities for enrollment continue throughout primary and high school. By understanding the admission process and following the latest guidelines provided by ESF, families can navigate the application journey with confidence. ESF's commitment to providing a comprehensive education, its focus on the IB curriculum, and its diverse range of schools and programs make it an excellent choice for families seeking a quality international education in Hong Kong.

Feel free to contact us via our website and check out our YouTube video to learn more:


English Schools Foundation. (2023, May 25). ESF to drop “zoning” requirement for school admissions. English Schools Foundation 22 International Schools in HK.

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