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Education in Hong Kong: Problems and Solutions

Similar to the British system, education in Hong Kong consists of a 9-year compulsory education for students aged six to 15. Before enrolling in university, most students complete 12 years of study at public or government-aided schools, which are generally free to attend. However, there also exists a private international school system that is in high demand in Hong Kong: the schools are highly competitive to enroll in and boast very high tuition and schooling fees.

The education system in Hong Kong ranks high, though there are a few evident problems. Experts claim that quite a few schools overly stress “reciting” material, which requires students to memorize information verbatim. Further, the “spoon-fed” teaching style does not allow for lively student debates or the promotion of critical thinking. There is a worry that the mechanical reciting and negative acceptance of learning materials will restrain potential creativity and imagination among students. Other major problems of the current education system include low enrolment rates in local universities as well as social and psychological problems among students due to high stress.

There are advantages of getting an education in Hong Kong: one is that the use of English is more popularized in Hong Kong, as compared to mainland China. However, with respect to the education itself, there is no major difference between schools in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The system of education in Hong Kong makes it quite difficult for local students in Hong Kong to connect with Chinese culture and mainland China. In addition, many teachers in Hong Kong are greatly influenced by Western education; thus, they are more likely to recognize the issues of freedom, democracy and human rights as opposed to strengthening their identities with the mainland region. At the moment, both primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are encouraged by the central government of China to set up curriculums that include Chinese teaching and bilingual learning.

There have been 3,714 cultural exchange programs with nearly 60,000 participants from mainland China to Hong Kong and Macao from 2006 to 2010. Both the scale and quality of cultural exchange has grown in the past decade. The exchange programs that have been included in the education in Hong Kong encourage closing the culture gap between students of these regions.

As mentioned earlier, pressures of higher education in Hong Kong have led to increased stress among students. This is fuelled by a prevailing ideology among the Hong Kong society that nothing is achieved without attending university. More than 80,000 high school graduates compete for one of the 15,000 government-subsidized first-year university spots each year.

Greater efforts must be made to address the stress faced by students within the system of education in Hong Kong. At the moment, the Hong Kong Children and Youth Services helps those who have a tendency of violence. Its staff provides services in addition to speaking gently, listening to the youth and helping them process their thoughts with patience and empathy. The Hong Kong Youth and Children Education Center opened in 2013, offering self-sponsored services and free testing for kids of families in need. It facilitates would be capable of helping them recollect self-esteem, increase resilience and coping skills.

Education in Hong Kong is moving towards an advanced global education system while also placing efforts on fusing the cultures between mainland China and itself. Reasonable solutions and measures depend not only on efforts by the government, schools and society, but also relies on the interactions between teachers, students and their families.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Strongest Education Systems
Over the last few years, major changes have occurred in the world ranking of nations’ education systems. Five countries that claim the strongest education systems have successfully implemented methods that may help countries with high poverty rates and weak education systems.

In descending order, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland claimed the top five rankings for strongest education systems in 2015. Four of the top five are Asian countries or territories.

According to MBC Times, these countries outperform others because they value engagement and accountability culturally and their education systems emphasize effort over “inherent smartness.”

Each of the top five initiated unique tactics that have increased the quality and accessibility of education:

  1. South Korea
    South Korea emerged as the number one ranked education system in 2015. With a yearly budget of just over $11 billion, South Korea spends more money on education than many countries.
    Children attend school seven days a week and are expected to work very hard from a young age. As a result, South Korea has made impressive strides in literacy rates. According to Fair Reporters, nearly 100 percent of the population — 99.2 percent of males and 96.6 percent of females — is literate.
  2. Japan
    Japan experienced great success in recent years by incorporating technology into its education system, providing its students with tremendous resources. In addition to demanding hard work from students, Japanese educators value extracurricular activities highly. According to Fair Reporter, students in Japan are generally expected to participate in extracurricular activities.
  3. Singapore
    Impressively, Singapore ranks third with a school system that the Singaporean government made up from scratch. Singapore’s school system values deeper education through conceptual learning over traditional schooling methods, which often encourage simple memorization and repetition. Singaporean educators focus on training students to be problem solvers and thorough thinkers.
  4. Hong Kong
    With a 94.6 percent literacy rate, Hong Kong has an education system similar to the United Kingdom’s. The Social Welfare Department oversees education, ensuring that each level of schooling works together to produce a fluid education experience. According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong has more top-200-rated universities than any other Asian country or territory.
  5. Finland
    Finland, who lead in the ranking for years, has dropped below Asian countries since 2012 but is still notable for its holistic, free education system. The Finnish education system values education outside of the classroom; school days are kept short and followed by school-sponsored educational activities. Finland’s teachers are some of the finest, most educated in the world.

Although major educational improvements have been made worldwide, many poor countries still have weak education systems that need systematic reform. Education systems like those of South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland are guiding the way forward.

Their methods, such as incorporating out-of-classroom education, requiring extracurricular activities, increasing education budgets, valuing conceptual learning, using technology and hiring well-educated teachers, could contribute to educational growth in poor countries worldwide.

Alex Fidler

Photo: Flickr