Education in Hong Kong

Education in Hong Kong

Education in Hong Kong has a similar system to that of the United Kingdom, in particular the English education system of Hong Kong was modernized by the British in 1861. The system can be described as extremely competitive by global standards.


Prior to 1841, the territory we know today as Hong Kong was an extension of Imperial China for many centuries. Village schools were the main form of institutions in the territory, and schools were part of the Imperial China's educational system. These schools essentially had a single teacher who returned to mainland China during fishing season. Some of these schools existed in areas like Chek Chu, Shek Pai Wan, Heung Kong Tsai and Wong Nai ChongSweeting, Anthony. [1990] (1990). Education in Hong Kong, pre-1841 to 1941. HK University Press. ISBN 9622092586] . One of the earliest schools with reliable records was Li Ying College established in 1075 in present day New TerritoriesBryn Mawr College. " [ Brynmawr Eastasian pdf] ." "" Retrieved on 2007-03-15.] . By 1860 Hong Kong had 20 village schools. Chinese who were wealthy did not educate their children in Hong Kong, instead they sent them back to the mainland for traditional Chinese education. The changes would come with the arrival of the British colonialization 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 1843Bray, Mark. Koo, Ramsey. [2005] (2005) Education and Society in Hong Kong and Macao: Comparative Perspectives on Continuity and Change. Hong Kong: Springer Press. ISBN 1402034059] . By 1861 Frederick Stewart would become "The Founder of Hong Kong Education" for integrating a modern western-style education model into the Colonial Hong Kong school system [Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced 2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume One. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. Page 8. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-59-2] . One of the much contested debate was whether schools should offer Vernacular education, teaching in Chinese at all. Education was considered a luxury for the elite and the rich. The first school to open the floodgate of western medical practice to the Far East was the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887. [ Sir James Cantlie started the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887 (although, the ‘for Chinese’ was later dropped from the name). Ingrams, Harold, "Hong Kong" (Her Magesty’s Stationery Office, London: 1952), p. 213.] The push for Chinese education in a British system did not begin until the rise of social awareness of the May Fourth Movement in 1919 and New Life Movement in 1934. Educating the poor did not became a priority until they accounted for the majority of the population..

Finance issues were addressed in the 1970sEh Net. " [ Eh Net] ." "Hong Kong History." Retrieved on 2007-02-21.] . A small group of protesters of South Asian origin marched through central Hong Kong demanding more schooling in the English language on 3 June 2007Hk Marchers. " [] ." "HK marchers demand more English" Retrieved on 2007-06-03.]


Following the introduction of the comprehensive school system in the 1960s in the UK, children in Hong Kong transformed from the old education system to the new [Chan, Shun-hing. Leung, Beatrice. [2003] (2003). Changing Church and State Relations in Hong Kong, 1950-2000. Hong Kong: HK university press. Page 24. ISBN 962-2096123] . Education listed as compulsory below are generally required by law.

British System before 1960

{|class="wikitable"! width=20% | Length! width=40% | Education Type! width=15% | Type
4 years || First School ||
4 years || Secondary-Middle School |
3 + 2 years || Secondary-High School |

British System after 1960

{|class="wikitable"! width=20% | Length! width=40% | Education Type! width=15% | Type
6 years || Primary School |
5 + 2 years || Secondary School |

British System after 1971

{|class="wikitable"! | Length! | Education Type! width=40% | Type
6 years || Primary Education || compulsory government funded as of 1971
3 years || Secondary Education|| compulsory government funded as of 1978
2 + 2 years || Secondary School || non-compulsory

Current 2007 Format

{|class="wikitable"! width=10% | Length! width=30% | Education Type! width=20% | Additional Names! width=15% | Type! width=10% | Focus! width=10% | School Year
3 years || kindergarten || || non-compulsory || General || Sept - June
6 years || Primary Education || Primary Six || compulsory || General || Sept - July
3 years || Secondary Education || Form 1, Form 2, Form 3 || compulsory || General || Sept - July
2 years || Senior Secondary
(leads to HKCEE)|| Form 4, Form 5 || non-compulsory || Specialize || Sept - July (Form 4),Sept - April (Form 5)
2 years || Matriculation Course
(leads to HKALE) || Form 6 (Lower Six)
Form 7 (Upper Six) || non-compulsory, performance based || Specialize || Sept - July (Form 6) , Sept - February/March (Form 7)
Depends on major || Tertiary Education
(leads to bachelors, masters and other academic degrees) || || non-compulsory || Specialize || Varies

chool Systems


The mainstream education system in Hong Kong has often been described as "spoon-fed" (. Depending on the religious background of the school, Religious Education or Bible Studies could be incorporated. The teaching medium in most of the local primary schools is Chinese with English as a second language. After the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, only a handful of primary schools and secondary schools are able to keep English as the medium of instruction under new government policies. Those schools are generally referred to as English as Medium of Instruction schools (EMI).

econdary Education

Secondary education in Hong Kong is largely based on the English schooling system, with coeducation being widespread. In Form 4, most students of grammar schools are required to choose between streams, namely "Science", "Arts" and "Commerce", depending on the school policy. The end of Form 5 leads to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE). The exam is equivalent to the UK's GCSEs or O-levels exams.

Students obtaining a satisfactory grade in the HKCEE will be promoted to Form 6. The Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) then acts as the de facto university entrance examination akin to the UK's GCE A-levels. At this level streaming is even more rigidly specialized dividing into Mathematics/Engineering stream, Biology/Medical stream or Arts stream for example.

Prerequisites for university admissions include Grade "E" or better in the HKALE Chinese Language and Culture and Use of English subjects. The Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) determines admission to tertiary institutions largely based on HKALE results. In addition, students achieving more than 6 'A's in their HKCEEs are eligible to apply for early admissions through the Early Admissions Scheme (EAS) including The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

Higher Education

Tertiary Education

With 8 universities and several other tertiary institutions in just one city, tertiary education plays a key role in the education system. Of the 36,660 students who attended the HKALE in 2003, 18,049 (49.2%) of them fulfilled their general entry requirement to their respective university, usually a pass in Chinese Language and Culture and Use of English, plus another two A-level subjects (or one A-level subject and two AS-level subjects). Students who sit for the HKALE first time have a success rate of 75.8%. There are 19 different Advanced Level and 20 different AS-level subjects available [Statistics sourced from the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority] . The cost of undergraduate, full-degree, full-time programmes tend to be around HK$40,000 - 50,000 a year, with the cost being higher for engineering and medical students. The reason for this relatively low cost is due to heavy government subsidisation. Being an international city, Hong Kong's tertiary institutions attract many foreign exchange students from US, UK, Switzerland, Canada, Italy, Singapore to name a few.

The following is a table comparing HK tertiary students enrollment in various countries. It also provides a ratio comparison to the number that enrolled in local Hong Kong universities.

{|class="wikitable"! Country ||1975 || 1984 || 1986 || 1988 || 1990 || 1992 || 1994 || 1998 || 2000
Australia || 572 || 1,658 || 1,687 || 1,889 || 3,864 || 6,707 || 11,932 || 17,135 || 20,739
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
UK || 4,434 || 6,500 || 6,935 || 7,300 || 7,700 || 7,600 || 7,400 || 5,450 || 5,200
USA || 11,930 || 9,000 || 9,720 || 9,160 || 12,630 || 14,018 || 12,940 || 8,730 || 7,545
Local || 11,575 || 21,538 || 25,995 || 29,591 || 34,556 || 42,721 || 52,494 || 59,528 || 59,408

Vocational and Post-secondary Education

Commerce stream in secondary schools are considered vocational in nature. Students in the Commerce stream would usually enter the workplace to gain practical work experience by this point. Further education pursuit in Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education or universities abroad are common. The Manpower Development Committee (MDC) advices the government on coordination, regulation and promotion of the sector. In addition, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) ensures the level of standard is met through the "Apprentice Ordinance". The VTC also operate three skills-centres for people with disabilities.

International Education

International institutions like German Swiss International School and French International School continue to teach with English as the primary language. International school students rarely take Hong Kong public exams. British students take GCSE, IGCSE and A-levels. US students take SATs. Other international student follow International Baccalaureate policies, and enter universities through non-JUPAS direct entry. International students apply on a per school basis, whereas Hong Kong local students have the advantage of submitting 1 application for multiple local universities as a JUPAS applicant.

Non-Mainstream Education

Adult education

Adult education is popular, since it gives middle-aged 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. Both operators have set up fee remission schemes to help the adult learners in need of financial assistance. Adult education courses also provide Vocational Training Council through various universities and private institutions. The Open University of Hong Kong is one establishment for mature students.

Education for newly-arrived-children (NAC)

The EMB provides education services for newly arrived children, which includes children from the Mainland, non-Chinese speaking children and returnees. 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. Hei-Hang Hayes Tang (2002) provided a good sociology of education thesis on the [ NACs' adaptation and school performance]


In the OECD's international assessment of student performance, Hong Kong has been ranked one of the highest scorers in 2003 and 2006. In 2003, 15-year-olds from Hong Kong came first in mathematics, and third in science, worldwide.


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 3 to 4 hours of schoolwork nightly. Along with extracurricular 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"Vickers, Edward. [2003] (2003). In Search of an Identity: The Politics of History Teaching in Hong Kong, 1960 s-2000. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 041594502X] . In particular, history education has been recognized as ineffective, with critics claiming that the curriculum is not capable of delivering a sense of identity.

Some have criticized the system for having too narrow of a stream focus, too early on. Alan Leong of the Hong Kong Legislative Council pointed out in a guest lecture to CUHK students that science stream education at secondary level, are incapable of participating in meaningful discussions on history, arts, or literature. Vice versa journalists of Arts stream background are incapable of accurately discussing technological issues. The narrow focus has been a concern.


At the time of writing March 2007, a new Senior Secondary School curriculum has been promulgated. Secondary education will move away from the English model of five years secondary schooling plus two years of university matriculation to the Chinese model of three years of junior secondary plus another three years of senior secondary, with the Form 1 intake in the 2006-07 academic year the first crop to graduate under the new system. Streaming of classes according to subjects offered will be abolished, and the two public exams HKCEE and HKALE will be merged into one public exam, called the Hong Kong Diploma in Secondary Education, sat at the end of the Senior Secondary 3 (Form 6 under the existing system), and expanding school based assessment. University education will extend from three years to four.

ee also

* Education in UK
* Education by country
* List of Joint School Society in Hong Kong
* List of schools in Hong Kong
* Hong Kong Diploma in Secondary Education
* Direct Subsidy Scheme
* A Passage A Day


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