Schools in Hong Kong

 

Schools in Hong Kong can be broadly divided into ‘local schools’ which follow a Hong Kong based curriculum, as regulated by the Education Bureau and ‘international schools’, which follow an overseas based curriculum.  

types of schools in hong kong

The type of Chinese  - Cantonese or Mandarin -  that is taught in school and the amount of hours devoted to the subject will depend very much on the type of school. 

Schools in Hong Kong can be broadly divided into ‘local schools’ which follow a Hong Kong based curriculum, as regulated by the Education Bureau and ‘international schools’, which follow an overseas based curriculum.  

 

For a more detailed explanation of the different types of school in Hong Kong see the chart. 

© www.topschools.com.hk | Used with permission

Local Schools - EMI or CMI?

‘Local schools’ can be divided into English Medium of Instruction (EMI) schools which teach Chinese for a  certain number of hours per week, or Chinese Medium of Instruction (CMI) schools, where most subjects are taught using Chinese. 

So far so good – that looks simple enough.   Except that the situation is actually a little more nuanced. 

 

EMI schools come in different shapes and sizes.  Some are the so called ‘elite’ schools, which teach in English but also require native levels of Chinese. Children from non-Chinese speaking families are in a small minority at these schools.

Other EMI schools include the ‘former designated schools’, which were set up to cater for the needs of Hong Kong’s ethnic minority students.  These schools cannot provide a Chinese immersion environment, as few of their students speak Chinese as a first language, as such students in these schools will generally not achieve native, or near-native levels of Chinese.

The language environment of the CMI schools is also a little unclear.  While local CMI schools used to teach entirely in Cantonese, for a while there was a move towards teaching Chinese lessons in Mandarin. A few years ago, reports showed that around 70% of primary schools were teaching the Chinese part of the curriculum in Mandarin[1]. It appears this trend has been reversed to some extent although the exact number of schools teaching Chinese in Mandarin/Cantonese is not known.  

 

Meanwhile, in a school that appears to be CMI, children from non-Chinese speaking backgrounds may be separated from the Chinese children for some lessons, thus diluting the Chinese language input. In this case, children from non-Chinese speaking families are not gaining the full benefit of being in a CMI school.  

Chinese in International Schools

International schools are English Medium of Instruction except for a few that teach in the language of the affiliated country - Japanese, Korean, French and German.  At international schools , Chinese is always taught in Mandarin.  Some schools use traditional characters and some use simplified.  Different schools put more or less emphasis on Chinese learning - this can range from a few hours per week to a majority of Chinese input during the primary years.  There are even some schools which offer a full Mandarin immersion learning experience from kindergarten through to the end of Primary. 
 

Complicated?!   Yes, the Chinese language learning landscape is rather mixed.  Check on the school website and if in doubt contact the school directly. 

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/2123208/teaching-chinese-mandarin-blamed-hong-kong-pupils-struggle