Education in Hong Kong

Education in Hong Kong
Regional Emblem of Hong Kong.svg
Education Bureau

Social Welfare Department
Secretary for Education

Director of Social Welfare
Kevin Yeung

Carol YIP
National education budget (2012/13)
Budget HK$110.526 billion

(HK$39,420 per capita)
General details
Primary languages English and Cantonese
System type National
12-year Compulsory Education September 2019[1] :Chapter 1, Paragraph 1.1
Literacy (2016)
Total 94.6%[2]
Primary 376,300
Secondary 344,600
Post secondary 324,100
Secondary diploma 49%
Post-secondary diploma 33.1%

Education in Hong Kong is largely modelled on that of the United Kingdom, particularly the English system. It is overseen by the Education Bureau and the Social Welfare Department.

In the 2019/20 school year, there are 587 primary schools and 504 secondary schools in Hong Kong.[3]

The academic year begins mid-year, usually starting in September.

History [ edit ]

Small village Chinese schools were observed by the British missionaries when they arrived circa 1843.[4] Anthony Sweeting believes those small village schools existed in Chek Chue (modern-day town of Stanley), Shek Pai Wan, Heung Kong Tsai (modern-day Aberdeen) and Wong Nai Chong on Hong Kong Island, although proof is no longer available.[5]

One of the earliest schools with reliable records was Li Ying College established in 1075 in present-day New Territories.[6] By 1860 Hong Kong had 20 village schools. Chinese who were wealthy did not educate their children in Hong Kong but instead sent them to major Chinese cities, such as Canton, for traditional Chinese education.[6]

The changes came with the arrival of the British in 1841. At first, Hong Kong's education came from Protestant and Catholic missionaries who provided social services. Italian missionaries began to provide boy-only education to British and Chinese youth in 1843.[7]

In 1862 Frederick Stewart arrived in Hong Kong. His work, over a period of years, led to his being called, "The Founder of Hong Kong Education". He took up an appointment as the first headmaster of the first school to be founded and fully-funded by the Hong Kong Government, Queen's College (then named the Hong Kong Government Central School for Boys). He took a lead from various missionaries who had been active in Hong Kong education for the Chinese in the earlier post 1841 period and insisted on a bilingual and bicultural curriculum. (Half the day was spent on the Chinese language and the traditional Confucian curriculum and half the day was spent on the English language and what was then known as "useful knowledge" (i.e. western studies). [8]

One of the much-contested debates was whether schools should offer Vernacular education, teaching in Chinese.[5] Education was considered a luxury for the elite and the rich. The first school to open the floodgate of western medical practice into East Asia was the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese. The London Missionary Society and Sir James Cantlie started the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887 (although, the 'for Chinese' was later dropped from the name).[9] Also, the London Missionary Society founded Ying Wa Girls' School in 1900. Belilios Public School was a girls' secondary school founded in 1890 – the first government school in Hong Kong that provided bilingual education in English and Chinese. The push for Chinese education in a British system did not begin until the rise of social awareness of the Chinese community following the 1919 May Fourth Movement and the 1934 New Life Movement in China.[5][6] Educating the poor did not become a priority until they accounted for the majority of the population. Financial issues were addressed in the 1970s.[10]

In 1997, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region implemented the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) to introduce and spread the project learning in the national primary schools. To promote the interactions of work groups or individual students in a new learning environment, professors were engaged in the role of "consultant, facilitator, helper" and posers of questions. Ten years after, the 80% of the Hong Kong's institutes had left the traditional approach to education, mainly based on teachers and textbooks, to adopt an active and experiential learning pedagogy.[11]

A small group of South Asian Hongkongers marched through Central demanding more schooling in the English language on 3 June 2007.[12]

On 2 September 2019, thousands of Hong Kong's students striked the secondary schools to join a boycott organized by the local party Demosisto against the extradition bill to China. Students formed a 650-meters human chain and six of them kneeled down in front of the St Francis' Canossian College, the mother institute of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam, to achieve the "five demands, not one less" that had originated 13 consecutive weeks of mass protests.[13]

Pre-school education [ edit ]

Pre-school education in Hong Kong is not free and fees are payable by pupils' parents. However, parents whose children have the right of abode in Hong Kong can pay for part of their fees with a voucher from the government under the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS). In 2013, the amount of subsidy under the PEVS is $16,800.

Primary and secondary education [ edit ]

Every child in Hong Kong, without any reasonable excuse, is required by law to attend a primary school after the child has attained the age of 6. It is also required to attend a secondary school after primary education and is completed before he/she attains the age of 18. However, a student who has completed Form 3 of secondary education and whose parent can produce evidence to the satisfaction of the Permanent Secretary for Education, shall not apply. Education in the public sector is free. Public primary schools admit students via the Primary One Admission System.

School years [ edit ]

Age in school year Year Curriculum Stages Schools
3 Kindergarten 1 Preschool Education Kindergarten Nursery School
4 Kindergarten 2
5 Kindergarten 3
6 Primary 1 Primary Education Primary Level P.1-P.3 (KS1) Primary School Middle School
7 Primary 2
8 Primary 3
9 Primary 4 P.4-P.6 (KS2)
10 Primary 5
11 Primary 6
12 Secondary 1 Secondary Education Junior Secondary S.1-S.3 (KS3) Secondary School
13 Secondary 2
14 Secondary 3
15 Secondary 4 Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Senior Secondary S.4-S.6 (KS4)
16 Secondary 5
17 Secondary 6
≥18 University Varies of Further Education University High School

Secondary education [ edit ]

Secondary education is separated into junior and senior years. In junior years, the curriculum is a broad one where history, geography, science are studied alongside subjects that have already been studied at primary schools. In senior years, this becomes more selective and students have a choice over what and how much is to be studied. Almost all schools but PLK Vicwood KT Chong Sixth Form College and its feeder junior secondary college have both sessions.[14]

Annually, Form 6 students studying in local schools in Hong Kong sit for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) between early March through early May. However, a minority of local secondary schools in Hong Kong also offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) for their students as an alternative choice to the HKDSE curriculum, for example, Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School and St. Paul's Co-educational College.[15]

Further education [ edit ]

The commerce stream in secondary schools is considered vocational. Students in the Commerce stream would usually enter the workplace to gain practical work experience by this point. Further education pursuits in the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education or universities abroad are common. The Manpower Development Committee (MDC) advises the government on coordination, regulation, and promotion of the sector. Also, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) ensures the level of standard is met through the "Apprentice Ordinance". The VTC also operates three skills-centres for people with disabilities. secondary schools in Hong Kong are going to be cut down to only two years due to the switch in the government.

Special educational needs [ edit ]

Basic education with ID starts at children's programs at lower Primary levels, as well as reading storybook and crafts. along with body height and weight increasing up, lessons would become relevant to the social, cultural and economic development of Hong Kong through secondary education. At senior secondary, students has select two subjects from eight subjects.

Alternative education options [ edit ]

International institutions provide both primary and secondary education in Hong Kong. International institutions like schools within the English Schools Foundation, Li Po Chun United World College, Hong Kong International School, American International School Hong Kong, Chinese International School, Victoria Shanghai Academy German Swiss International School, Canadian International School, Hong Kong Japanese School, Hong Kong Academy, French International School, Yew Chung International School, Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School, Singapore International School, Mount Kelly Hong Kong and Harrow International School Hong Kong teach with English as the primary language, with some sections bilingual in German, French and Chinese. International school students rarely take Hong Kong public exams. British students take GCSE, IGCSE, and A-levels. US students take APs. Increasingly, international schools follow the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) and enter universities through non-JUPAS direct entry. International students apply on a per-school basis, whereas Hong Kong local students submit 1 application for multiple local universities as a JUPAS applicant.

Tertiary and Higher education [ edit ]

Higher education remains exclusive in Hong Kong. Fewer than 20,000 students are offered places funded by the government every year, although this number has more than doubled over the last three decades.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

As a result, many continue their studies abroad, as can be seen in the following table.[7]

Country 1975 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1998 2000
Hong Kong 11,575 21,538 25,995 29,591 34,556 42,721 52,494 59,528 59,408
Australia 572 1,658 1,687 1,889 3,864 6,707 11,932 17,135 20,739
US 11,930 9,000 9,720 9,160 12,630 14,018 12,940 8,730 7,545
UK 4,434 6,500 6,935 7,300 7,700 7,600 7,400 5,450 5,200
Canada 6,644 7,723 6,730 5,840 6,372 6,600 6,589 5,000 5,000
Taiwan 2,626 3,816 3,854 3,850 3,633 3,450 2,663 1,487 1,171

Bachelor's degrees issued in Hong Kong have honours distinctions: first class, second class upper division, second class lower division, and third class.

Adult education [ edit ]

Adult education is popular, since it gives middle age adults a chance to obtain a tertiary degree. The concept was not common several decades ago. The EMB has commissioned two non-profit school operators to provide evening courses. The operators have fee remission schemes to help adult learners in need of financial assistance. Adult education courses also provide Vocational Training Council through universities and private institutions. The Open University of Hong Kong is one establishment for mature students. Several secondary schools operate adult education sessions, the first being Cheung Sha Wan Catholic Secondary School, while PLK Vicwood KT Chong Sixth Form College offers associate degree and joint-degree programmes.

Education for immigrant and non-Cantonese-speaking children [ edit ]

The Education Bureau provides education services for immigrant children from Mainland China and other countries, as well as non-Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong children. Free "Induction Programmes" of up to 60 hours have been offered to NAC by non-government organisations. The EMB also provides a 6-month full-time "Initiation Programme" incorporating both academic and non-academic support services, for NAC before they are formally placed into mainstream schools. The social issue aroused the interest of academic researchers to publish work about NACs' adaptation and school performance

In 2017 the Hong Kong government schools had 6,267 Pakistani students, the largest non-local bloc, and 818 white students of any national background. In 2013 there were 556 white students of any background in Hong Kong government schools. Historically non-local students from other Asian countries attended government schools while white students attended private schools instead. In 2018 Angie Chan of The New York Times reported that increasing numbers of white students were enrolling in Cantonese medium government schools. This was due to increasing tuitions from international schools which received influxes of wealthy Mainland Chinese and desires from parents for white students to learn Cantonese.[16]

International education [ edit ]

As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC)[17] listed Hong Kong as having 175 international schools.[18] ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation."[18] This definition is used by publications including The Economist.[19]

While the ISC definition allows for an objective number is does also mean that the count of "International Schools" is often considerably higher than the number of schools that would be relevant to an international, expatriate audience.[20], a review based site that looks exclusively at schools attended by expatriates, has 100 international schools listed in its directory[21], less than the ISC count, but still 17 more than its great city rival, Singapore. Of these 24 schools follow in part or in full a UK based curriculum[22] (largely the I/GCSE up to 16, A Level post 16), while others follow a UK/International Baccalaureate blend with the IB Diploma offered for post-16 study. Some 33 schools in Hong Kong currently offer the Diploma[23].

Hong Kong's international schools are not subject to independent inspection reports by the territory's regulator, meaning word of mouth tends to drive reputation as to what are considered to be the best performing international schools in the territory. A large number of parent forums exist that help parents new to Hong Kong make an often very difficult decision.

Private, international schools come at very different prices. The most expensive school is currently Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, with average annual fees of HKD $360,000 (USD $46,450.13). These fees are skewed by the fact that this school is boarding only, and only for the students studying the last two years of the IB. The next most expensive school in the territory is the Chinese International School (CIS), an IB continuum, bi-lingual school (Mandarin and English)[24]. Its average fees across year groups is currently HKD 216,500 (USD $27,935)[25].

In addition to the international day school, Hong Kong's Japanese population is served by a weekend education programme, the Hong Kong Japanese Supplementary School (香港日本人補習授業校, Honkon Nihonjin Hoshū Jugyō Kō, HKJSS).[26]

In 2018 Angie Chan reported that increasing numbers of Chinese students, including Hong Kong Chinese and Mainland Chinese, were enrolling in private international schools. In 2017 the percentage of foreign students in such institutions was under 75%, with Hong Kong Chinese being 21.6% and Mainland Chinese being about 4%. In previous eras virtually the entire international school student body was foreign.[16]

There are top-rated exempted courses where courses offered overseas are collaborated with local institutions in Hong Kong to broaden the scope of Tertiary Education in Hong Kong.[27] MIT has an innovation node in Hong Kong.[28]

Types of schools [ edit ]

Type Category Description
Government schools Comprehensive Run by the government.
Aided schools Subsidized schools Comprehensive Most common, run by charitable and religious (Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, TWGHs and others) organisations with government funding.
Grant schools Subsidised Schools run by charitable or religious organisations with government funding according to the now defunct Grant Code. Currently receiving government aid in accordance with the Codes of Aid [3], which also apply for the Subsidized schools.
Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools Subsidised Run by non-government organisations. HKSAR Government has encouraged non-government primary and secondary schools which have attained a sufficiently high education standard to join the DSS by providing subsidies to enhance the quality of private school education since 1991/92 school year. Under the scheme, schools are free to decide their curriculum, fees and entrance requirements, under the following conditions:
  • The number of students doing the local curriculum (HKDSE) must be no less than half of all students.
  • All students must participate in the local TSA examinations.
Caput schools Subsidised Subsidies are provided according to the number of pupils admitted.
Private schools Private Run by private organisations and mainly accept local Chinese children. Admissions are based more on academic merit than on financial ability; they teach in English and in Cantonese.
Private international schools Private Provide an alternative to the mainstream education, in exchange for much higher tuition fees although it is recently[when?] deemed[who?] as high-pressure as local mainstream education.[which?][citation needed] The schools teach streams in English and in the language of its sponsoring nation, e.g., French, German, Japanese, etc.
English Schools Foundation Subsidised Provide an alternative to the high-pressured mainstream education. Tuition fees are lower than many other international schools as many ESF schools enjoy subvention by the Hong Kong Government to educate English-speaking children who cannot access the local system.

Legacy [ edit ]

From 70/80s to 2011/12 [ edit ]

Length Education type Additional names Type Focus School year
3 years Kindergarten voluntary General Sept – June
6 years Primary education Primary 1 to 6 compulsory General Sept – July
3 years Secondary education Form 1 to 3 compulsory General Sept – July
2 years Senior Secondary

(leads to HKCEE)
Form 4 and Form 5 selective Specialised Sept – July (Form 4), Sept – April (Form 5)
2 years Matriculation Course

(leads to HKALE)
Form 6 (Lower Sixth Form)

Form 7 (Upper Sixth Form)
selective, performance based Specialised Sept – July (Form 6), Sept – February/March (Form 7)
Depends on subject Tertiary education

(leads to bachelors, masters and other academic degrees)
selective Specialised Varies

From 2012/13 to present [ edit ]

Length Education type Additional names Type Focus School year
3 years Kindergarten voluntary General Sept – June
6 years Primary education Primary 1 to 6 compulsory General Sept – July
3 years Junior Secondary education Junior Secondary 1 to 3 (Form 1 to 3) compulsory General Sept – July
3 years Senior Secondary Education

(leads to Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education)
Senior Secondary 1 to 3 (Form 4 to 6) selective Specialised Sept – July (Senior Secondary 1–2), Aug – Feb (Senior Secondary 3)
Depends on subject Tertiary education

(leads to certificates, diplomas, associates, professional diploma, higher diploma, advanced diploma, bachelors, post-graduate certificates or diplomas, masters, phd)
selective Specialised Varies

Class size [ edit ]

In early days, many primary schools in Hong Kong offered half-day schooling, splitting by AM and PM to handle the demand. The two sessions were usually treated as separate school entities with two different headmasters. To make up for the time of shortened half days, students were sometimes required to attend alternate Saturdays. Most primary schools are gradually moving to full school day systems as government policy aims to phase out half-day schooling over time as resource permits.

Due to the drop in birth rate in recent years, many primary schools were forced to cut classes, cut teachers and even close down. There have been debates that one should seize the opportunity to promote small class teaching, in order to mitigate the pressure of teachers, class and school reductions, on top of improving ratio of students to teachers.

Discipline [ edit ]

Good behaviour has always been emphasised in Hong Kong, to the point that it is sometimes said to hinder pupils' development. Misbehavior is recorded and shown on school reports. The Education Bureau (EDB) provides the 'Guidelines for Student Disciplines' to schools to as guidance in creating a disciplined education environment. It outlines the principles and policies regarding student discipline, the organisational structure of a school discipline team, the roles and responsibilities of the discipline master and mistress, and discipline strategies illustrated with case studies.[29]

Criticisms [ edit ]

Spoon feeding [ edit ]

Education in Hong Kong has often been described as 'spoon fed'. Cram schools in Hong Kong have also become a popular standard in parallel to regular education. Teachers focus on helping students getting high scores in the major exams and heavily rely on textbook knowledge rather than exchanging ideas and essence of the subjects.[30]

Education reform [ edit ]

With the advent of education reform there is a greater emphasis on group projects, open-ended assignments on top of traditional homework. The current workload of a primary student in Hong Kong includes approximately two hours of schoolwork nightly. Along with extra-curricular activities, Hong Kong's education has become synonymous for leaning towards quantity. As early as March 1987, education advisory inspectors became concerned with the excessive amounts of "mechanical work and meaningless homework".[31] In particular, history education has been recognised as ineffective, with critics claiming that the curriculum is not capable of delivering a sense of identity. Not only that, students have to memorise the whole history texts, thereby indicating that rote-learning has greater priority than absorbing and understanding material.[31]

Some[who?] have criticised the system for having too narrow of a stream focus, too early on. Legco Member Alan Leong argued in a guest lecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong that secondary level science students are incapable of participating in meaningful discussions on history, arts, or literature.[citation needed] Vice versa journalists of arts stream background are incapable of accurately discussing technological issues. The narrow focus of education in Hong Kong has been a concern.[citation needed]

The pervasive perception from observers in overseas education institutions generally is that a typical Hong Kong student compared with other students, even against other students in the Asia region, lacks systematic decision-making confidence and relies on repetition and undeveloped answers. This deviates from the common benchmark of intellect where value propositions are generated from innovation and distinctive solutions, and this has led to much schism in the debate of educational direction of Hong Kong, where the populace makes no such aspiration for intellect but seek constant reaffirmation of the value of myriad certificates obtained through pedagogy throughout their working lives. The desperation to seek standing in life through education is further highlighted by severe ironies such as:

  1. Senior education officials often acclaim the excellence of Hong Kong education, yet few if any will let their children matriculate locally, preferring overseas universities instead.
  2. A certificate driven society that takes pride in its academic excellence is unable to devise a suitable benchmark of excellence itself, with a low public approval of the local educational system, relies on certification from outside Hong Kong.[citation needed]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ "Report on Review of 9-year Compulsory October 1997 Education (Revised Version)". SUB-COMMITTEE Education, The Board of Education. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  2. ^ Social Indicators of Hong Kong, from [1] Archived 21 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service
  3. ^ "Overview on Primary Education". Education Bureau. Archived from the original on 10 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  4. ^ The Chinese Repository, Article III 'Religious and Charitable Institutions in Hongkong: Churches, Chapels, Schools, Colleges, Hospital, etc' August 1843 issue, p.440
  5. ^ a b c Sweeting, Anthony. [1990] (1990). Education in Hong Kong, pre-1841 to 1941. p.87, Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-258-6
  6. ^ a b c Bryn Mawr College. "Brynmawr Eastasian pdf Archived 11 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine." "" Retrieved on 15 March 2007.
  7. ^ a b Bray, Mark. Koo, Ramsey. [2005] (2005) Education and Society in Hong Kong and Macao: Comparative Perspectives on Continuity and Change. Hong Kong: Springer Press. ISBN 1-4020-3405-9
  8. ^ Bickley, Gillian. [1997] The Golden Needle: The Biography of Frederick Stewart (1836-1889). Hong Kong: David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University. ISBN 962-8027-08-5
  9. ^ Ingrams, Harold, Hong Kong (Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London: 1952), p.213.
  10. ^ Eh Net. "Eh Net Archived 13 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine." Hong Kong History. Retrieved on 21 February 2007.
  11. ^ Ping Kwan Fok; Kerry J. Kennedy; Jacqueline Kin Sang Chan (2010). Teachers, policymakers and project learning: The questionable use of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ policy instruments to influence the implementation of curriculum reform in Hong Kong (PDF). International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership. 5. pp. 3–4. ISSN 1555-5062. OCLC 7179783131. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011 – via DOAJ.
  12. ^ Hk Marchers. "[2] Archived 5 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine." HK marchers demand more English Retrieved on 3 June 2007.
  13. ^ "Hong Kong students strike on first day of school year". The Indian Express. 2 September 2019. Archived from the original on 14 September 2019.
  14. ^ "The Hong Kong Education System and school system explained". Archived from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  15. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ a b Chan, Angie (22 August 2018). "The New Thing in Hong Kong's Public Schools: White Students". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  17. ^ "International School Consultancy Group > Home". Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  18. ^ a b "International School Consultancy Group > Information > ISC News". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  19. ^ "The new local". The Economist. 17 December 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  20. ^ " Hong Kong". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  21. ^ "Hong Kong International Schools". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  22. ^ Retrieved 8 August 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ "Schools offering the IB DP in Hong Kong". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  24. ^ "HK Schools in order of fees". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  25. ^ "Chinese International School Fees & Availability". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  26. ^ "Home Archived 3 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine." Hong Kong Japanese Supplementary School. Retrieved on February 14, 2015.
  27. ^ "Archived copy" 獲豁免課程名單. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2018. CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "News - MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node". MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  29. ^ "Student Guidance and Discipline Services". The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Archived from the original on 19 July 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  30. ^ Chong, Chan, Dennis, Joyee (9 July 2012). "Students 'spoon-fed'". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  31. ^ a b Vickers, Edward. [2003] (2003). In Search of an Identity: The Politics of History Teaching in Hong Kong, 1960s–2000. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94502-X

Further reading [ edit ]

External links [ edit ]

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