The school year in Hong Kong begins in the fall and ends in the early summer. During major holidays including Christmas, Easter, and the Chinese New Year, school is not in session. The school year is divided into either terms or semesters, depending on the school.
Primary and secondary school in Hong Kong
The structure of the the education system in Hong Kong is based off of the United Kingdom´s system. Students may attend up to three years of kindergarten, starting at the age of three. After kindergarten, students enter six years of primary school. Each of the final three years of primary school concludes with intense examinations, which determine the secondary school that each student may be eligible to attend.
Secondary school is divided into two levels: Junior and Senior. The secondary schools themselves are divided into three Bands. The Bands are ranked in order of academic prestige, with Band 1 being the most prestigious. Naturally, the better ranked ¨Band¨of school a student attends, the better chance he has of getting into university.
Only the Junior years (or Forms) of secondary school in Hong Kong are compulsory. These are Forms 1, 2, and 3. When this period ends, the students who are planning on attending university enter Forms 4 and 5, a period also called Matriculation.
The end of the secondary school period is marked by two exams, the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Exam (HKCEE) and the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE). The HKALE is similar to the British A-Level Exam, and the student´s score becomes an important factor in the university admissions process.
Private and international Schools
As Hong Kong´s public school curriculum is taught in Cantonese, most international and expat students in Hong Kong attend private and international schools based on the curricula of their home countries. These schools are well-funded through tuition and debenture systems, and while they can be somewhat expensive, they are staffed by highly qualified faculty from the Hong Kong area and abroad. Many of these schools follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) Curriculum.
College and university
Hong Kong features eight highly competitive universities, all of which have space for international as well as local students. They also offer various study-abroad and language exchange opportunities. Hong Kong university tuition is not cheap, running roughly US $10,000 per year. Thanks to generous support from the government and corporations, however, the universities offer a variety of scholarship and financial aid packages. This government and corporate funding also ensures that there is money available for academic development and research grants.
Hong Kong universities demand a high degree of English proficiency, and students who are non-native speakers must take a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) before admission. Around 66% of Hong Kong students go on to pursue further studies following secondary school.
Hong Kong is currently in the process of a major education reform, which is designed to cut down on the number of exams in the curriculum and to place more attention on personal development. This includes emphasis on moral development, civic service and physical fitness. A year will also be added to the Senior level of secondary school by 2012. Finally, an additional year will be added to the number of years required to study for a Bachelor´s Degree (currently three), meaning that Hong Kong university students will be required to put the standard four years of undergraduate study toward their degrees.