Education System in Hong Kong

The education system in Hong Kong was influenced by British rule and contains many elements that can also be seen in the United Kingdom [1]. It is currently revised, and in order to keep things simple, here only the education system presented as it will be implemented in 2012 (a good introduction to both the old and the new system can be found in [2]). This article traces the path of a student from primary school to graduation at a university. Leaving the optional 3-year kindergarten aside, education consists of 6-year primary education, 3-year junior secondary education, 3-year senior secondary education, and then - for those who are admitted to university - 4-year tertiary education in a university undergraduate program.

Education from primary school towards undergraduate studies at a university

While public schools offer cost-free 12-year primary education and secondary education [3], for tertiary education universities generally charge tuition fees which are higher than in Germany but often less than in the United States.

There are roughly three types of local schools in Hong Kong: those operated by the government, those operated by other institutions but funded by the government, and private schools which might also receive some financial assistance by the government [2] [3]. The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region spends 24.5% of its expenditures on education, corresponding to 4.5% of GDP compared to 4.6% of GDP in Germany [4] [5].

Primary Education

It is compulsory for children to obtain primary education, which consists of six years at a primary school. Placement does not take place before Primary 5 and Primary 6, as compared to Germany, where the decision about going to university where placement procedures start as early as in third and fourth year of primary school. The number of primary school students is shrinking due to demographic change [6].

Secondary Education

After primary school, students attend a secondary school. At the end of six years of secondary education students take a placement exam that leads to the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) [3] [7], which has a similar function as the A-levels exam, the Abitur, the International Baccalaureat obtained in other systems.

Tertiary Education

Depending on the results in the HKDSE exam, students can be admitted to one of the many universities in Hong Kong, from which the most-often listed ones are the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Hong Kong University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Unlike the cost-free education in the previous 12-years of primary and secondary education, universities charge a tuition fee, which covers a notable amount of university expenditures, at least at HKUST where tuition fees made up 22 percent of all income in the academic year ending in 2010 [8]. The cost for tertiary education is not negligible, and often local students need to take loans in order to cover their expenses.

International Orientation

Hong Kong's universities try to encourage good students from abroad to come study in Hong Kong. There is lively exchange between students from the United States and Hong Kong. At HKUST, more students come from th the United States than from all European countries together. The same applies for the reverse direction [8].


  1. Hong Kong Education and Schooling System Explained. accessed 2011-12-23
  2. Hong Kong's Education System. accessed 2011-12-23
  3. Hong Kong. The Facts: Education. accessed 2011-12-23
  4. UNESCO: Hong Kong Education Profile. accessed 2011-12-27
  5. UNESCO: Germany Education Profile. accessed 2011-12-27
  6. Hong Kong in Figures: Education. accessed 2011-12-23
  7. Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
  8. HKUST Facts & Figures Sheet. accessed 2011-12-23
  9. Hong Kong Education Bureau. accessed 2011-12-23
  10. Hong Kong: Education and Training. accessed 2011-12-23