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| Published in Education in the World | Written by Patricia May

Educational System in Hong Kong

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At first, the educational system in Hong Kong was similar to those in the UK, as it was administrated by the United Kingdom till 1997. Since that time, there have been some changes in the schooling system. The Ministry came up with the new educational system in Hong Kong in 2009/2010, which was close to the systems in China and even the USA.


A lot of children in Hong Kong go to kindergartner for three years. Teachers and principals in such educational institutions should have at least minimum classifications, as there is an emphasize on early education of children. The curriculum was changed in such a way that children should have a sound foundation before they go to school.

Primary Education

A lot of Primary schools in Hong Kong have Chinese medium of instructions. Children are to study a number of subjects, and Social Studies, Physical Education, Science, Math, English, Chinese, Art, and Music are among them. Children sit for the examination at Primary 5 and 6. The result of exams help to locate children to Secondary schools, and those students with the highest scores go to the top schools. There can be from 35 to 45 students in one class, and it is much higher number than in schools of Western countries.

Secondary Education: Key Facts about New Secondary System

  1. 6 years of primary and 3 years of junior secondary education is compulsory.
  2. Education in public schools is free.
  3. Students prepare for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) at 12th Grade/Year.
  4. At the end of the 12th year, students are to take exams leading to the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE).
  5. After getting HKDSE students can continue education in different institutions.
  6. Since 1997 most schools offered Chinese as the language of educations, but since 2013, more than 100 schools offer English as a medium of instruction.
  7. The HKDSE exams are held at the end of Grade/Year 12 (Form 6).
  8. The HKDSE curriculum includes:

  • 4 core subjects (English, Mathematics, Chinese and Liberal Arts);
  • 2 or 4 elective subjects (students can choose from 20 subjects);
  • completion of “other learning experiences” (for example, aesthetic development, moral and civic education, career-related experiences, community service, and physical development).
  1. If a student is enrolled into international school, he or she do not take public examination.
  2. The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education is divided into three categories:
  • Category A (core and lective subjects);
  • Category B (appliend learning);
  • Category C (other language subjects).

11. The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education is given when all requirements from the category A are met. The highest grade is 5, but the university entry is extremely competitive so that two new grades were introduced: 5** and 5*.


12. Category C exams are conducted by the UK’s Cambridge International Examinations Authority.

Tertiary Education

This type of education is extremely important in Hong Kong. You can choose from 8 universities, but there are also some institutions with university academic status. If you enter the university, you have an opportunity to choose from a wide range of programs, including:

  • Undergraduate degrees;
  • Postgraduate degrees;
  • Associate degrees;
  • Higher Diplomas.

The number of places at universities is less than the number of students, willing to continue their education at universities. Thus, those students, who did not manage to get into the undergraduate program have an opportunity to get Associate or Higher degree. A lot of students, who want to held postgraduate degree prefer to enter universities abroad.