By Cecilia Law, 2020

Overview of the Hong Kong’s Education System

The Hong Kong education system features a non-compulsory three-year kindergarten, followed by a compulsory and free six-year primary education and three-year junior secondary education. Then, the non-compulsory and free three-year senior secondary education will lead students into the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), which is the major public examination, and then into the four-year undergraduate academic system. There are also tertiary institutions offering various Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees, other higher diplomas, and associate degree courses.

In the 2019/20 school year, there are 587 primary schools, 504 secondary day schools and 61 special schools in Hong Kong.

Summary of HK Education System:

In general, three types of comprehensive schools exist in Hong Kong:

  • Government schools, which are relatively rare
  • Subsidised schools run by charitable (often Christian, but Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic and Confucian as well) organisations with government funding, to which most students go.
  • Private schools which are often run by Christian organisations as well; admissions are based more on academic merit than on financial resources.

Outside this system the schools are under the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and private international schools, which provides more flexibility and an alternative to the high-pressured mainstream education in exchange for much higher tuition fees, where Christian schools may provide more flexibility and allowance towards MKs family.

The Education Bureau Web site provides updated and comprehensive information.


Children whose parents are in ministry would fall into the category as non-JUPAS (Joint University Programmes Admissions System). The admissions would be done separately to individual universities.

A list of Institutes

Cultural Differences for Teachers to Know About

  • Homeschooling is not allowed. Thus, school lives and learning with peers are encouraged in Hong Kong.
  • Large classes. Classes usually contain 30-40 students in primary and junior secondary education.
  • Possible difference in assessment. In the past, the local education system has been very exam-orientated. However, in recent years there have been some moves towards fewer exams and more continuous and formative assessment.
  • Languages. Biliterate (Chinese and English) and trilingual (Cantonese, Putonghua and English) abilities are promoted.
  • Stricter discipline. Schools usually have a strict discipline code and virtually all students wear school uniform.

Challenges/Recommendations for MKs on Furlough

  • School application before summer holidays. It is important for parents to note that the school year starts in September in Hong Kong. It would always be more favourable to apply for schools before summer holidays, i.e., around June.
  • Precise enrolment requirements. School enrolment in Hong Kong often requires certificates on previous studies and interviews.
  • Communication a must. International and private schools, where students pay higher tuition fees, offer a higher degree of flexibility on enrolment. Yet, e-communication is always suggested before application and arrival.
  • Homeschooling is not allowed in Hong Kong, unless special approval is granted by Education Bureau through individual application.
  • School fee. Private Christian schools may be able to provide financial aid to an MK’s family upon application. Do talk to the school on this.
  • Variety of university entrance requirements. Universities welcome applications from candidates with different educational backgrounds. Different universities and programmes have different entrance requirements. Universities’ homepage contains clear and informative illustrations.
  • Some Chinese-related courses may be required. Universities’ programmes are usually conducted in English unless specifically marked. However, some Chinese-related courses or reading of Chinese materials may be required.
  • University application due by January. Closing date for applications for admission for every school year is usually around January.
  • University admissions. Admissions are usually based more on academic merit and interview performance.
  • Residential hall not guaranteed. Most of the universities have a residential hall. However, due to lack of rooms, it is not a promised facility.

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