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Hong Kong

Preprimary & Primary Education

Nursery schools and kindergartens are privately owned, but they must register with the government and follow its regulations. In 1999-2000, some 756 kindergartens were registered and taught 171,138 students. The government provides financial assistance to needy families who cannot afford kindergarten fees. In 1999-2000, the Student Financial Assistance Agency (SFAA) received 72,436 applications for kindergarten fee remission. From this total, 65,128 received half fee remission and 3,741 received full fee remission. The pupil-teacher ratio in 1999-2000 was 12.6 children per teacher, but individual class sizes vary.

There were 819 primary schools with 491,181 students enrolled in 1999-2000. About 6 percent of these schools were operated entirely by the government, about 84 percent were operated by nonprofit groups that received government aid, and about 10 percent were privately owned and funded.

Most primary schools operate half day sessions. One group of children attends the morning sessions, and another group attends the afternoon sessions. The government plans to convert all primary schools to full-day schools in the future. In September 2000, about 39 percent of all primary students attended full-day schools. By the 2002-2003 school year, government plans call for 60 percent of the students to be in full-day primary schools and, by 2007-2008, all primary students should be attending full-day schools. The pupil-teacher ratio was 22.4:1 in 1999-2000, but class size is usually in the mid-thirties. The government has promoted a teaching method called "Activity Classes," a system that encourages student-centered learning. These classes are usually smaller than normal classes.

Before 2000, parents competed to get their children into prestigious primary schools, even if those schools were outside their "NET" (Hong Kong is divided into 58 primary school NETS or home districts). Parents often moved, rented, or even cheated to get their children into one of the higher rated schools. The government began a new policy in 2000 for the Primary One Admission (POA) System that restricts the competition for primary school openings. Parents are allowed to apply to any school anywhere but are only guaranteed places in their home district. There are two stages of selection. In the first, each primary school selects 65 percent of its entering primary one students from applications, but 30 percent of these must come from their district. Those children still waiting for placement are then assigned by the government to schools within their home districts.

For decades Hong Kong education officials have proposed different plans to assess student learning and to evaluate each school's performance. One was the Academic Aptitude Test (AAT), put into place in 1978. It measured verbal and numerical reasoning in Chinese and consisted entirely of multiple choice questions. In the 1990s it came under increased criticism for not measuring higher order thinking skills and for not testing more of the actual subjects from the curriculum. It was also used to compare each school's relative success at educating students. As of September 2000, the AAT was abolished. Authorities are attempting to devise tests that will allow them to assess student competency, individual school performance compared to other schools, and the city-wide school system as whole. In the meantime, a temporary three-part method will be used that combines the school's average AAT results from 1997-2000, each student's grades, and parents' preferences.

Besides the core subjects of Chinese, English, and mathematics, primary schools teach courses in general studies, including sciences and health; civics; music and art; physical education; English; and Mandarin. Instruction in computer use is also being added to the curriculum.

Although Cantonese is the language of instruction, English is taught in every primary grade. Overall, each student receives between 180 and 210 hours per year in English instruction.

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceHong Kong - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundation, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education