In the past, the education system in Hong Kong was influenced by British rule and contains many elements that can also be seen in the United Kingdom. However, since 1997, the education system taught in local schools has undergone a series of changes. While some of these changes have reflected different language of instruction policies, there have also been changes to the senior secondary curriculum. The new model is now more in line with those found in China and even the USA.
While there are nine years of compulsory schooling in Hong Kong, six in primary school and three in junior secondary school, the Hong Kong government has recently moved to make it easier and more likely that the majority of students will receive 12 years of education. .
Primary Education 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.
The first year of secondary school, after primary school, known as Form or Secondary One, follows six years of primary education. Forms 1 – 3 have compulsory attendance and in junior secondary, the learning is broader, without students choosing specific study areas 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), which has a similar function as the A-levels exam, the Abitur, the International Baccalaureat obtained in other systems..
Tertiary education is important in Hong Kong. There are eight universities and several other tertiary institutions without university status. All the tertiary institutions offer a range of programmes including undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, as well as Associate degrees and Higher Diplomas. In terms of post-graduate study, the trend for local Hong Kong people is to complete a post-graduate qualification abroad. In terms of post-graduate students at local universities, a significant number of them come from Mainland China.
Adult Education or Life-long learning has become a popular catch cry from the government and certainly taking a course seems to be a common activity among the adult population. The majority of the universities have schools which offer non-degree, adult learning courses and there are a range of other institutions as well, offering professional, general education and interest courses. Language courses, especially English, Mandarin and Japanese are common, and many adults study as a means of improving their prospects in the employment market. The government has even established a scheme which enables adult learners to apply for course fee reimbursement for approved courses. There is also the Open University of Hong Kong, run along similar lines to the UK one, which gives many people opportunities to study for a degree.