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Hong Kong / Singapore / KL - SN, schools and healthcare

(14 Posts)
christmastreewithhairyfairy Mon 27-Nov-17 10:36:53


I'm hoping to get advice from someone who has lived in any of these places. DH and I have always wanted to live abroad and the far east is calling to us. But apart from a quick stopover in each, many years ago, we don't know them well and don't even know where to start researching.

We know we can get decent jobs out there, and know there are good international schools, but the biggest unknown is how well they will cater for our DD (7) who has ADHD. So my questions are:

- What is the healthcare like, for example is private healthcare affordable? Anyone know how good they are for ADHD (or anything else mental health or development related?)

- How good are international schools with special needs? Do they tend to have Sencos?

- What are class sizes like? Currently DD is in a school with classes of 10-20 and that helps prevent her get too distracted. Anything much bigger and I feel she will struggle.

- Failing knowledge on the above (which is quite specific I know), what's good/bad generally about living in any of these places? Or advice on best places to research?

Thanks in advance!

MightyOWL Mon 27-Nov-17 11:41:15

I live in KL

The high end schools do support some special needs, but depending on your child's needs, you might be asked to fund a PLA if the school thinks it's needed. The good schools will take each case on it's merits. If you end up in KL I can advise you on schools. Most International schools are 20ish in a class. Smaller than that are the less popular schools (and they are less popular for a reason IMO.

Medical care is good but expensive. My DH had a nervous breakdown a few years ago, and was seeing a psychiatrist and counsellor, good and quick access (thank god!) but not cheap. You need full coverage.

I've been in Asia for 13 years.
Pros: Great travel opportunities, good standard of living, high salary, good education.

Cons: It's a long way from home (My dad died this year and I really felt the distance), it's easy to live in an expat bubble, it is getting more expensive.

Fuel and travel are cheap
Groceries (esp if you want imported stuff) and utilities (electric, internet) are expensive

christmastreewithhairyfairy Mon 27-Nov-17 12:14:53

Hi mighty, thanks so much for your reply and sorry to hear about your DH, I hope he is ok now. And also sorry about your dad flowers, what a tough couple of years.

Approx how much is health insurance? Currently in the UK I am paying £400 a month just for me shock so if it's much more that would be tough.

What is a PLA (sorry I did google but didn't find an answer!) - personal learning assistant?? DD doesn't need 121 assistance so that wouldn't be an issue. Just an understanding school and good medical care.

Also a slightly off topic question, and please don't flame me for my ignorance on the subject, but I do have some concerns about raising girls in a Muslim country (my parents lived in the middle east for a while and I wouldn't live there for example), but I know KL is cosmopolitan and women have good opportunities there compared to say Saudi. Am I being silly or would anything in society there make them feel like second class citizens? (again I apologise for my ignorance and hope this doesn't offend anyone)

MightyOWL Mon 27-Nov-17 12:34:28

Thanks Fairy - yes it's been a rough few years, DH is much better.

PLA - Personal Learning Assistant (1:1)

We have BUPA Worldwide coverage, I think it costs about GBP 8K ish a year (DHs employer covers it so I'm not sure), I'd phone them and ask. There are local/cheaper alternatives but you really do get what you pay for.

I have three girls, and we moved when they were 9, 6 and 2. The oldest two are now back in the UK. My youngest DD is 16.
As Muslim countries go, it's pretty relaxed. I've never let my girls go out in shorts and vest tops but girls do. Education is valued highly and girls are educated as much as boys, and apart from very rural areas, child marriage is a thing of the past.

Everything grinds to a halt during Ramadan (Think of trying to get something done on Xmas Eve, but it goes on for an entire month- like trying to get a plümber, people look at you as if you are mad "Don't you know it's Ramadan???"
I actually find the racism here more troubling, they say they are such a culturally tolerant society, but they really are not, the Muslims get cheaper housing loans, have more uni scholarships awarded to them (there are quotas for each race) and get more government support to start businesses. It's perfectly legal to advertise a job and say "Chinese only" or "Malay only" and mixed relationships are still very taboo. [Sorry - end rant]

christmastreewithhairyfairy Mon 27-Nov-17 15:39:10

Thanks mighty. That is interesting, I hadn't considered the racism element. I have heard that other places in Asia (e.g. Japan) could be bad for that. Sounds maddening!
That's good re equal opportunities for girls though, and that you have brought your girls up there.

Can anyone weigh in with opinions on Sg/HK for comparison?

ShanghaiDiva Tue 28-Nov-17 01:24:19

I live in China, not HK, but for serious medical procedures we are evacuated to HK. I have experience of three hospitals in HK and healthcare was excellent, but expensive. My son needed surgery - overnight stay - £18k in total, so you do need decent insurance.

christmastreewithhairyfairy Tue 28-Nov-17 08:55:57

Thank you ShanghaiDiva, sounds like a similar story. 18k shock

NB Shanghai was also one we've considered but if healthcare isn't as good that may be an issue.

Can anyone advise on treatment of SN in Asia generally? Or would I be better posting this in SEN?

MightyOWL Tue 28-Nov-17 09:12:26

My DD dislocated her knee a few years ago, General anaesthetic, surgery, overnight stay and physio was pushing close to 20K. You can't skimp on medical cover, even if you are generally fit and healthy.

For a better insight into SN, I suggest you actually email a couple of schools and ask specifically. Different schools will respond differently.

chunn65 Tue 28-Nov-17 09:46:35

I lived in Singapore for 5 years had my son out there, Excellent hospitals if have a good health care package, my husband wanted 2 paracetamol and was charged £4! International schools good, my son was too young to attend school but friends kids did and they stick to current school curriculum. (Australian school) It is an expensive place basics like milk and bread are pricey as they import everything. They have clubs i.e the British club to get great food and even xmas lunch, It is easy to get around, they have a great transport system and the trains are cheap. Housing again can be expensive. English is widely spoken. I did travel,had a friend in Japan so much more difficult, language being one of the difficulties, v expensive for food need money and water on standby due to tremors. Apartments small Difficult for wives heard their are more divorces in Japan. I also heard about some racist remarks made in the Australian school ( it was down our road) someone had sprayed "aussies go home" They are a very regimented country, All men have short hair and some police are under cover, no trouble is tolerated. Chewing gum is banned the papers are government controlled. But I felt safe. husband travelled alot. Sundays are the busiest days where the maids get their day off. It was a great experience and i did enjoy our time there, Go for it. if you can go for 3 days (14 hour flight) u get a feel for the place, Our company arranged for a quick tour we had an american women give us a flavour of apartments the shops and clubs etc. good luck.

christmastreewithhairyfairy Tue 28-Nov-17 09:57:34

Thank you chunn. I think Sg is probably in the lead at the moment. I've been reading HK threads and the pollution/traffic/prices/schools stories are putting us off. Sg does seem regimented - I don't think I could live there for a long time for that reason but it does seem very appealing for a few years.

Thanks mighty - your poor DD. Clearly watertight insurance is the way to go in all of these places! KL was a bit of a wildcard, I hadn't considered it but DH has spent time there in the past and loved it, it does appeal as somewhere slightly more "real" and less controlled than Sg.
Great idea to contact the schools - thank you.

Johnnycomelately1 Sat 02-Dec-17 07:36:25

I'll round it off with my tuppence worth on HK. Lived here 8 years. Two DC: 7&5.

* What is the healthcare like, for example is private healthcare affordable?*

Private healthcare is usually included by your employer to some degree but how comprehensive it is massively varies. The public system is also almost free and is pretty good if you're being blue lighted, giving birth or getting vaccinated, but not great for everything else. Is loosely modelled on the NHS and is under massive financial pressure.

How good are international schools with special needs? Do they tend to have Sencos? Not that great tbh. Some are openly selective. Of those that aren't, most will have "inclusion specialists". Both dc have children with statements (ASD/ ADHD) in their classes but either they can cope in mainstream with minimal support or their parents are paying for 1:1 TA support. There is a school called The Harbour School that is more inclusive. Classes v small. It is very expensive though.

What are class sizes like? Around 20-30, depending on the school. Harbour School smaller.

Failing knowledge on the above (which is quite specific I know), what's good/bad generally about living in any of these places? Or advice on best places to research?

Good: Vibrant, high energy city, great social life, diverse expat population, very affordable childcare/help, has seasons, has beaches, amazing countryside and the city all in v. close proximity, good public transport, kids learn mandarin in school, tax is flat 15%, can work on a dependents' visa.

Bad: Expensive, crowded, apartments will be small compared to UK, poor air quality, near N Korea grin, traffic bad but I wouldn't say worse than a lot of other Asian cities, socio-economically unequal (but again, not necessarily worse than other Asian cities).

BonApp Mon 04-Dec-17 21:47:43

I would choose Singapore over HK for space, housing, schooling and cleanliness if moving with young dc.

Do deffo speak to the international schools re special needs. It’s a totally different dynamic when the schools are private/fee-paying as quite frankly lots of schools will want to keep the rest of the parents happy as there is no obligation for them to take on a child with additional needs. So if one child is taking up more of the teachers time, or somehow disturbing the other children, the parents will complain. Or if the school need to bring in a specialist worker the fees may increase. It’s not necessarily right or fair, but sadly often the case with international schools.

Do your homework and have a blast!

LionsTigersBeers Sun 21-Jan-18 09:52:15

We are in SG with a child with ADHD and ASD.

Check out 'The Winstedt School' and Dover Court International for schools for a student with ADHD. The Winstedt school is a special ed school with small classes (max 12 I think) and differentiated learning. They have a minimum IQ requirement - students tend to have additional learning needs like dyslexia, aspergers, ADHD. They have onsite OT, speechies etc.

Dover Court offer a SEN stream of small group classes alongside their mainstream classes. You need to look very closely at what your child's potential class make up is as that will determine whether/not the class is a good fit. They often offer two streams of SEN classes, so your child might be a fit for a higher functioning small class. The school does a good job of integrating the small group kids into a twinned mainstream classroom.

Both schools charge annual fees of around $37,000 (SGD).

Also look at Stamford American School - who have a strong support program but their fees are significantly higher.

I've also heard good things about Tanglin's learning support.

I've yet to find an insurer that covers any ADHD additional care - meds, OT, other therapies etc. My son's paediatric psych ($500/hour), OT is $130/hour.

Support and general awareness is not nearly as strong here as the UK. But I have built up a strong, wonderful really, support network and we are very happy here.

Do PM me if you end up coming to Singapore.

LionsTigersBeers Mon 22-Jan-18 00:12:31

Just thinking, if you'd prefer your DD continue in mainstream, have a look at the smaller schools. Dover Court is still a good one, Chatsworth, Nexus and IIS. St Joseph's International also apparently has very good pastoral care but they usually have a significant waitlist. Most class sizes are around 20-23 students in the intl schools.

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