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Education in Hong Kong and Macau

ACEI has an active network of country liaisons who inform ACEI about education policies and activities in their respective countries. Country Liaisons report information and events as experienced by them in their communities and within their nations, which means that sometimes the opinions of Country Liaisons may vary from official reports about education in their nations. Here are some highlights from one of our country liaisons; please watch the ACEI Exchange and the ACEI News section of our website for additional updates.

Michael C.K. Kam, ACEI’s Country Liaison in Hong Kong and Macau, notes that because of their status as Special Administrative Regions of China, Hong Kong and Macau enjoy a greater deal of freedom in designing their education systems when compared with mainland China. Hong Kong has been undergoing significant changes in its education system, including restructuring from a 6+3+2+2+3 (primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, matriculation, and tertiary) to 6+3+3+4 (with one more year of senior secondary education before proceeding to tertiary education, and an additional year of university education).

Most of the schools in Macau are private schools, with only a few public schools. Macau does not have its own unified education system for the time being; although the government has made attempts to unify the education system, the idea has not been widely accepted. Free 10-year compulsory education is offered to all students. Students at schools participating in the free education program enjoy free education until they reach age 18—at the junior secondary level—or age 21—at the senior secondary school level.

In general, there are three types of education systems in the region:


Chinese System

British System

Portuguese System

Primary education

6 years

6 years

4 years

Junior secondary

3 years

3 years

5 years

Senior secondary

2-3 years

3 years

3 years



2 years


Highlights on education policy in Hong Kong and Macau from Mr. Kam’s report:

Hong Kong

Medium of Instruction (MOI) policy

The Hong Kong government defines its language policy as enhancing students' bi-literate (Chinese and English) and tri-lingual (Cantonese, Putonghua, and English) abilities. In the late 1990s, the government initiated the Native-speaking English Teachers (NET) program to enhance the learning and teaching of English in public sector primary and secondary schools.

Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) 

This program was introduced in September 1991 to encourage private secondary schools that have been identified as high-quality institutions to join the DSS and receive subsidies to enhance the quality of private school education. Traditionally, private schools in Hong Kong are inferior to public schools because they depend mostly on school fees collected for providing education services, and often do not reach the level of funding of public schools. As of September 2013, there were 74 DSS-subsidized schools.

Full-day primary schooling

Full-day primary schools have gained general recognition for being more effective in enhancing students’ learning and development than half-day primary schools. At present, there are more than 400 primary schools in Hong Kong offering full-day schooling. Full-day schools can enjoy more flexibility in time-tabling and include more extra-curricular activities and programs for students with special educational needs.

Small class teaching 

In response to parents' demands for more teacher-student interactions and sufficient time for individual attention, small class teaching was implemented in the 2009/10 school year. The initiative works to improve teaching and learning to enhance students' academic performance and strengthen character education and overall development.


Ten-year plan for 2011-2020 

The government of Macau has developed a 10-year plan designed to identify education as a top priority for economic, social, and metropolitan development, and foster a society that values education for future generations. Other goals include: better coordination in various constituent components of education; ensuring the effectiveness of basic education; increasing secondary school participation rates; providing appropriate professional education and training; and creating a system of lifelong learning. Additionally, the government plans to promote equity in education through support to students from disadvantaged families and those with special needs.

Language policy

As a former Portuguese colony, the official languages of Macau are Chinese and Portuguese, with English playing an unofficial but significant role. English is the medium of instruction at the University of Macau and in a number of secondary schools. Cantonese and Putonghua are widely spoken in Macau.

As a member of the Advisory Management Committee of Teachers' Centre of Hong Kong Education Bureau, Kam organizes professional activities for teachers to foster a greater sense of unity and professionalism.


1.  Koo, R. (1999). Introduction. In M. Bray & R. Koo (Eds.), Education and society in Hong Kong and Macau: Comparative perspectives on continuity and change (pp 1-11). Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, the University of Hong Kong.

2.  Koo, R., Kam, M.C.K., & Choi, C.B. (2003). Education and schooling in Hong Kong: Under one country and two systems. Childhood Education, 79(3), 137-144.


Program highlights on secondary education, primary education and overview of kindergarten education in Hong Kong.

On education in Macau