Education system in Hong Kong

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Main Page - Education systems by country - Hong Kong


The formal education system in Hong Kong is based on the British education system, having been a colony until 1997. There are three types of school in Hong Kong:

  • government schools;
  • subsidised schools run by charitable organisations with government funding; and
  • private schools admitting pupils on academic rather than financial merit.

Almost all schools in Hong Kong require uniforms to be worn and have strict codes of discipline. (

Primary and secondary schools were established in Hong Kong when the UK comprehensive system was introduced in the 1960s. These replaced the previous system of first school, secondary-middle and secondary-high. As in the UK, Hong Kong education offers a non-compulsory kindergarten, compulsory primary for six years followed by five years of compulsory secondary schooling. Two years of non-compulsory education may follow leading to Advanced Level examinations. Tertiary institutions offer diploma and degree courses (

In 2000 the Secondary School Places Allocation system replaced the Academic Aptitude Test at primary/secondary transition. Secondary school places are allocated according to grades received from 3 examinations during the final years of primary education. Schools and pupils are banded, with Band 1 for the top pupils, and their resultant secondary school will affect their tertiary choices. In 2004 the five band system was reduced to three bands, to reduce discrimination (

The Hong Kong Examinations Authority is an independent, self-funding and non-profit body, with members representing all areas of education and community. This authority also administers over 140 academic, professional and vocational qualifications (


Age in years Phase
2-5 Kindergarten Child-caring rather than educational. Some providers charge fees, others are non-profit, requiring parent participation.
5-11 Primary Core subjects include Chinese (Cantonese), English, Maths, Sciences, Music, PE, Arts and Crafts. Local schools teach in Chinese, with English as second language. Primary to secondary transition is decided by three examination grades in Years 5 and 6 identifying one of three secondary bands.
11-16 Secondary
Starts at Year 7, called Form One. The curriculum for Forms 1-3 is general, non subject-divided, education. In Forms 4 and 5 pupils prepare for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE), the equivalent of GCSEs. Successful pupils are promoted to Lower Form Six.
16-18 Secondary
Pupils prepare for the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations (HKALE) taken at the end of the Upper Form Six. A small minority of successful Lower Sixth pupils are ‘fast tracked’ to university through the Early Admissions Scheme (EAS).
18+ Tertiary By 2010, 60% of Hong Kong’s population will be tertiary graduates. University places are allocated by the centralised Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), based on pupils’ HKCEE and HKALE results. Hong Kong has eight universities and several other tertiary institutions. Degree programmes are cheaper than in the west as they are heavily subsidised by the government.
Adult Postgraduate Many Hong Kong students complete postgraduate studies abroad, however their absence allows for postgraduate students from nearby countries to study in Hong Kong, enriching the learning community.
Part-time Adult education courses, including English, are provided by the Vocational Training Council. Programmes available include courses for the elderly, and for new arrivals in Hong Kong.

Alternative Education

Outside mainstream schools, private International Schools offer kindergarten through to secondary education, and the opportunity to obtain international qualifications, such as IGCSEs. The American, Australian and Canadian International Schools, for example, follow the curriculum of the home countries ( and kindergartens following the Montessori method of education offer 3 years of pre-primary schooling (

It is unclear whether home schooling is legal in Hong Kong since it became a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997, as different sources on the web provide different views on this - eg,,sid9_gci500600,00.html says it is legal yet and state home schooling is illegal in Hong Kong. (If you know of a definitive answer to the question of the legality of home schooling in Hong Kong please update this entry!)


Education and Manpower Bureau: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, (Visited 13-July-05).

Education in Hong Kong, (Visited 13-July-05).

Education System: settle in HK, (Visited 15-July-05).

Home School,,,sid9_gci500600,00.html (Visited 17 July-05).

Homeschool, (Visited 17 July-05).

Hong Kong’s Education System, (Visited 13-July-05).

HSLDA: Home School Legal Defence Association, (Visited 17 July-05).

Montessori for Children, (Visited 15-July-05).

Useful Links

Teaching in Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s Education System
Provides links to educational authorities and examining bodies in Hong Kong. (Visited 23 July-05)