Education and Schooling in Hong Kong: Under One Country, Two Systems

Article excerpt

The 2002 International Focus Issue of Childhood Education focused on children's school experiences around the world. Guest Editors Susan A. Miller and Jillian Rodd located too many excellent articles to include in one issue. Therefore, we have been publishing additional theme-related articles in subsequent issues. This is the last of the series.

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Hong Kong was a British colony for over 150 years until June 1997, when it reverted to the jurisdiction of mainland China as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HK SAR). According to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, the former British crown colony would still enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all aspects, except for matters of foreign relations and defense. Since the reunification, however, Hong Kong's education system has undergone massive reorientation and extensive reform at all levels in order to meet the needs and challenges of the changing society.

During the political transition period, educators and policymakers have struggled to address issues associated with the role of education, the legitimacy of education policy, the challenge of bringing up citizens in mainland China, the use of English and Putonghua (the national language) in schools, and the potential for future convergence between education in Hong Kong and the motherland (Postiglione, 1992). Other relevant concerns for the future of education in Hong Kong include:

* Restructuring the aims of education to meet the needs of the Hong Kong SAR and China

* Ensuring the smooth transition and interface between the basic education system and senior secondary education

* Increasing overall government expenditures in education, while ensuring appropriate allocation of resources to kindergarten and early childhood development programs

* Consolidating school-based management programs, while allowing for more flexibility and self-governance

* Improving teacher education

* Increasing opportunities in higher education by increasing the quotas for high school graduates

* Strengthening home-school relations and encouraging parents' participation in home-school partnership programs

* Reducing the number of ability groups in schools from the current five to three

* Fostering the educational opportunities of children newly immigrated from mainland China

* Reinforcing the training of teachers in the national language (Putonghua) as well as the teaching and learning of moral and civic education.

Other issues and challenges include the use of information technology in schools, the development of new assessment mechanisms, and revising admission policies. In 2001, a report on the Reform of the Education System in Hong Kong (HK SAR, Education and Manpower Bureau) recommended the following:

* Building an education system that is focused on all-round development and lifelong learning

* Enhancing the knowledge, abilities, and attitude of all students

* Implementing flexible and diversified curricula to meet students' different learning needs

* Providing multiple learning channels from which students can choose

* Encouraging schools to develop according to their strengths and characteristics

* Developing an international outlook among students.

An Overview of the Education System

Hong Kong has a total population of 6.7 million, within a total land area of only about 1,000 square kilometers, which is about six times the size of Washington, D.C. Education is compulsory and free for all students between the ages of 6 and 15. Children between the ages of 3 to 6 can attend privately run nursery schools or kindergartens. About 1.25 million students are in full-time education, representing 18.5 percent of all students in the territory. Home schooling beyond kindergarten is almost nonexistent, since parents believe children should obtain education through formal schooling and socialization. …