There are actually several different Hong Kong School Calendars depending on what type of school we are talking about. Generally speaking though they can be divided into two main categories; the “local” Chinese speaking schools, which includes government run schools, and the “international” English speaking schools.
Local School calendar
Each school actually makes their own decisions about the exact calendar they are to use, when they will have holidays and breaks etc. However they do have to follow a strict set of guidelines from the Education Bureau of Hong Kong and this does limit flexibility. The exact rules are complex but boil down to there must be 190 days of teaching, 3 days of teacher training, and all public holidays must be observed. Add to this the convention that school starts on the 1st of September and ultimately all schools end up with extremely similar timetables.
International School calendar
There is much more flexibility for the international schools in Hong Kong and they tend to each have their own idea, blending their “home country” style together with the demands of HK public holidays and the unique requirements of expatriate parents.
Some move their summer holidays earlier in the year by a week or two as many parents will be going “home” to another country and wishing to get cheaper airtickets are likely to take their kids out of school early anyway.
Each year the ESF has been moving their start date earlier and earlier. For new school years the start date that is being proposed earlier than the 15th of August. That’s much earlier than most schools and is a problem for parents who are sending their children to summer programmes, such as arts, sports and so on, which typically run until near the end of August.
Increasingly the different schools, including many of the purely local schools, are being more flexible with their calendar. Half days, extra days, special events and so on are now more commonly scheduled during late summer and you will find children in school uniforms at all times.
Those tourists visiting Hong Kong for holidays and attempting to avoid the crowds at kid-friendly places by not being in Hong Kong during the school vacations therefore find it difficult, as the popular times to visit such as summer, Easter, Christmas and Chinese New Year are of course also breaks for the kids.
And to be honest, most of the interesting attractions in Hong Kong tend to get busy most of the year anyway. With visitors from the rest of Asia and from mainland China each having their own schedules, not to mention the upside-down calendar of the Australian and NZ visitors, it is impossible to really find a “quiet time” of year.
That doesn’t mean you won’t find a quiet time of day though, like most vacation destinations from Rome to Bucharest, from the Eifel Tower to the Grand Canal, things are always much quieter in the morning. So if you want to avoid the school children on their holidays during your holiday, try being a morning person! If you are coming from Australia or the US try deliberately not adjusting to Jet Lag, but staying at least partly on your original time. Then you are out of synch with Hong Kong locals and can enjoy things at the odd quiet hours.