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The Evolution of Education in Hong Kong Research Paper


Despite the proximity of Hong Kong to China, its education system is very different from Chinese one. While the Chinese education system is based on the Confucian culture, Hong Kong’s education is based on the western system. Apparently, the 150 years that Hong Kong was a colony of the British defined forever its education system. Although there is evidence of ancient Chinese values in Hong Kong’s culture, 90% of the education system is foreign (Edward, 2003). The intention of this research paper is to elaborate on the influence of culture in the Hong Kong on education system and give an account of the evolution of education in Hong Kong.

Impact of Culture on Hong Kong’s Education System

The British missionaries were the first to arrive to Hong Kong in 1843. Although there is no evidence to prove this, it is believed that the first village school was built in Shek Pai Wan. From that time henceforth, the missionaries started to put up schools all over Hong Kong in the pretext of building churches. By 1980, Hong Kong had more than 20 schools located mostly in the urban areas. Prior to the arrival of the missionaries, education was a reserve of the elite. Wealthy citizens in Hong Kong used to send their children to big cities in China to get a proper education (Anthony, 1990).

To begin with, the Catholic priests were charged with the responsibility of dispensing the gospel to the people of Hong Kong, nonetheless, this did not stop them from being teachers in schools. Later on, the Protestants joined in and set boys-only schools for the British and Chinese children in Hong Kong. In 1861, Frederick Stewart became the founder of Hong Kong’s education after he managed to incorporate the traditional Chinese education system with the colonial one (Edward, 2003).

Due to its close relationship with China, the mentality of citizens in Hong Kong had not changed completely. There still were elements of the Confucian culture, which claimed that only boys could have an education meanwhile women were meant to stay at home and help with household chores. The Confucian culture also demanded that education was only meant to be dispensed to the rich and wealthy individuals in society. This influence of the Chinese culture made it very difficult for the missionaries to sensitize the importance of education to the people of Hong Kong. There were still reservations by the elders in taking their girls to school (Huashan, 2000).

In 1887, the London Missionary Society and Sir James Cantile built the first medical college in Hong Kong. The success of this college (Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese) served as a floodgate for other colleges to open up. In fact, this success led to the opening up of Ying Wa Girls’ School in 1900. During this period, there were contentions between the locals and the missionary about incorporating the Chinese language in the curriculum. However, this issue was ignored by the British administration until 1919 when there was the May Fourth Movement. This movement brought about a new social awareness and led to the inclusion of the Chinese language and culture to the educational system (Anthony, 1990).

By 1970, the majority of the citizens in Hong Kong had received an education. Nonetheless, there was still one more issue ­­- education of poor people. However, this was possible to be resolved with the help of a complete census to enable the government to account for the population. Today, all the schools in Hong Kong are run on a western system; it is no wonder that Hong Kong has been ranked among the top 10 countries with good education systems (Huashan, 2000).

Evolution of the Education System in Hong Kong

After the World War Second, in 1950, little was left of the missionary schools in Hong Kong. School structures had been run down, all the textbooks had been burnt and there was a huge shortage of good teachers. During the same year, there was a huge influx of immigrants. This meant that an enormous education system had to be established to cater for the growing number of youths. This therefore forced the government to embark on a serious school building program to accommodate the huge population (Anthony, 1990).

In 1965, the government announced a change in the educational structure. They decided to set primary education as a priority, in addition, any other expansion in education would be through the aided sector. By 1970, huge improvement in the education system had been realized. For example, better training programs for teachers in colleges had been introduced with the minimum training period for a teacher being increased from one year to two years. Secondly, the advisory board had been greatly improved and its range of services increased. In addition, a special committee for curriculum development had also been instituted. Indeed, the national exam had also been changed to accommodate other foreign languages. Finally, an educational television show had already been prepared for primary going kids (Rozanna, 1998).

Following the success in primary education, it became possible to embark on secondary school enrollment. In 1970, the education board agreed that there was a need to start massive constructions of secondary schools and necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the government would make a provision to subsidize secondary education. In 1978, the government made it official that it would provide three years of junior secondary school at subsidized rates. The same year, the government would also announce that education was no longer an option but compulsory for the first nine years (Anthony, 1990).

After a series of consultations, the government decided that they would need to select 40% of those who had completed junior high school to join the senior classes. Among those selected, four out of ten would pursue languages while the rest would join the technical streams. Besides this selection, the government decided that in the spirit of promoting education, it would give a subsidy for 60% of those who would be selected to join senior secondary school (Rozanna, 1998).

In line with government’s plan to improve both secondary and tertiary education, the government decided to embark on a journey to develop structures and institutions to integrate the disabled individuals in the society. These plans were compiled and handed over to the social welfare for implementation in 1980 (Huashan, 2000).

In the recent past, there have been calls for more open-ended assignments and communal based projects. It has also been necessary to shift emphasis from the technical subjects to social sciences. There has been criticism from some quarters terming some subjects as meaningless and bogus. In particular, the history has described inconsequentiality as it involves too much memorization and little applicability. In general, a lot of work is still ongoing to streamline the education system with a lot emphasis to reintroduce social sciences.


Anthony, S. (1990). Education in Hong Kong, pre-1841 to 1941. Hong Kong, China: University Press.

Edward, V. (2003). In search of an identity: The politics of history teaching in Hong Kong, 1960s-2000. United Kingdom, UK: Routledge.

Huashan, C. (2000). Tongzhi: Politics of same-sex eroticism in Chinese societies. Hong Kong, China: Haorth Press.

Rozanna, L. (1998). Staging Hong Kong: Gender and performance in transition. Hawaii, HI: University of Hawaii.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Evolution of Education in Hong Kong." December 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/brownson-debs-evaluation-of-the-two-approaches-2/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Evolution of Education in Hong Kong'. 22 December.

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