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The Education Reform in Hong Kong

To many expat parents the public school system in Hong Kong can be quite overwhelming. Do you want to learn more about the public school system? Then read our guide and learn more about the school system, reforms, and enrolling your child at a public school in Hong Kong.
After a long debate on education reforms, the new "334 scheme" was introduced in 2012.

The Old and the New Structure

The Hong Kong school system is a very competitive system that puts high pressure on students to do well in their exams. This is supposed to ensure the admission to one of the elite secondary schools which leads to a successful academic career and a prestigious job later in life. As a result, students have to deal with an enormous amount of homework, even in the first year of primary school, lecture-style teaching methods, and a strong focus on academic achievement rather than personal development.

Over the past decades, there has been an ongoing debate in Hong Kong about the selectiveness of the school system and its outdated teaching methods. As a result, Hong Kong has reformed its system of education in fundamental ways. A new educational structure was introduced in 2009, with first examinations held in 2012. The old system with the HKCEE and HKALE examinations has phased out in 2012 in favor of this new structure.

The 334 Scheme and HKDSE

A so-called “334 scheme” has been introduced, with three years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education, which are followed by a new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). In order to pass the HKDSE examination, students must test well in four core subjects (Chinese, English, Math, and Liberal Studies). The HKDSE will allow students to enter university directly after their secondary school education. Undergraduate university programs will take 4 instead of 3 years.

Apart from the structural changes, a fundamental reform of the curriculum has been implemented as well. The new curriculum aims to include personal development as well as academic access, different approaches to teaching and a diversification of the resources used for studying in Hong Kong’s schools.

Language of Instruction and the School Year

Nowadays, the language of instruction in most Hong Kong schools is Chinese. Especially since the transfer of sovereignty to China, the government has been encouraging the use of Chinese as the main language in Hong Kong's classrooms. English is still extensively taught as a second language, with the official aim of enhancing students’ bilingual (written Chinese and English) and trilingual (Mandarin, Cantonese and English) abilities.

The school year usually starts in August or September and ends in June or July of the following year. There are four main Hong Kong holidays: Christmas holidays, Chinese New Year, Easter holidays, and summer holidays. The exact dates vary from year to year. Keep in mind that international schools may have different vacation dates than public schools. You can check with the relevant school and find out the exact dates.


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