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Education in Hong Kong Choices

I have been living and working in Hong Kong for seven years. In that time I have worked in International Schools in Hong Kong and a variety of private tuition centers. Recently I have become principal of ITS Tutorial School (www.tuition.com.hk).

One of the most common questions I get asked by parents is how do I choose the right school or educational syllabus for my child. In Hong Kong there are four main choices open to senior secondary school students. These are the local curriculum - Hong Kong A level, United Kingdom curriculum UK AS/A2 level subjects, American curriculums and the International Baccalaureate (IB).

My opinion on the Hong Kong curriculum is very poor. The Hong Kong exam authority still uses a norm referencing criteria to limit the amount of students who pass so as to limit entrance into their universities. This makes the exam very unfair. The material examined is very content heavy. Wrote learning is the main skill that the schools promote. Subjects are offered in both English and Cantonese depending on the school. I would not recommend this syllabus for any one who is fluent in English. Good results are incredibly difficult to achieve and the skills taught will not be that useful in further education.

The UK syllabuses are taught by the English Schools Foundation (ESF) in Hong Kong. They are a carry over from Hong Kong colonial past. The courses are very good and well written. The problem though is that many of the humanities based subject require a detailed knowledge of the UK and Europe. This puts Hong Kong students at a major disadvantage in exams. The tend in Hong Kong now is for schools to move away from teaching these UK syllabuses and adopt the IB.

The schools that offer the US syllabuses are really only suitable for those students aiming for US universities. These syllabuses focus on getting students ready for the SAT exams. I think these syllabuses are very narrow and quite easy compared to the UK based ones. Students do not tend to be pushed very hard and content is quite shallow.

The IB is my choice of syllabuses for senior secondary students. The courses are on the whole well written and adding to this students give very good feedback about the course. IB makes students take a very broad curriculum and stops over specialization at secondary school. The IB diploma is internationally recognized and a good result will help ensure a student can attend university in many countries around the world. In Hong Kong many schools offer the IB. I believe the best job is done by the Chinese International School.

Therefore as to choices for parents or students. I recommend the IB.

Submitted by:

Gary Hadler

Gary Hadler is the principal of ITS Tutorial School Hong Kong http://www.tuition.com.hk and an assistant examiner for the International Baccalaureate (IB)

garyh@tuition.com.hk





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