In the past, being able to send one’s children to study abroad was a privilege limited to the extremely wealthy. The same cannot be said for the situation in the present day. Recently, more parents are choosing to send their children to schools around the world. Hong Kong students can be found around the globe. Countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia are some of the most popular destinations. This phenomenon reflects a decrease in parents’ confidence in the quality of education provided by local schools. In this piece I will discuss the factors that may have influenced parents in deciding to pay sky-high tuition fees so that their children can go to school outside Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, most of our time spent in secondary school revolves around preparing for the DSE. The DSE is considered a major hurdle for students who wish to enter university. The higher marks you get, the better chance you stand to gain the entry ticket to the degree you wish to pursue at university. Therefore, instead of absorbing knowledge, students are trained to become examination machines. Instead of studying the subjects they are truly passionate about, students take the subjects that will give them the most competitive standing in applying to universities. After school, students have to rush off to their second school – tutorial centres. Students do not return home until the sun has long set. It appears that every stage in a child’s learning experience is a preparation for the next stage in life. From competing for entrance to a “good” kindergarten, to entering primary and secondary school, and subsequently to university, the education curriculum does not seem to have incorporated any discovery or recognition of personal talents and interests.
In contrast, the general atmosphere in schools abroad appear to be the exact opposite as those in Hong Kong. With the exception of cram schools, independent schools in the UK, for example, place a heavier focus on the personal development of each individual student. Class sizes are small, allowing the teacher to oversee each student more carefully. Having summative coursework throughout the term also takes some of the burden off students as opposed to following an exam-oriented curriculum. Students can also choose to study a wide variety of subjects, including subjects like Design & Technology, which encourages students to be more innovative and creative. The boarding experience also helps Hong Kong students learn how to communicate and integrate with students from the UK and other countries. These are some of the characteristics of schools abroad that act as an incentive for parents who want their children to receive an arguably better education.
Ultimately, the root of the reason for the phenomenon of the mass migration of Hong Kong students to schools abroad lies in the distrust of parents towards the local education system. There is a common perception that people are only considered to have achieved success if they become lawyers, international bankers or doctors. A degree in arts or language subjects is often regrettably frowned upon. By sending their children to study abroad, some parents hope that their children may be able to bypass the DSE and gain entrance to a university in Hong Kong through the non-JUPAS admissions scheme. Others hope that their children will become better people and be able to continue studying what they love abroad. Unless the Hong Kong education system undergoes some serious reform, this phenomenon is unlikely to die down in the near future.