Overview of Kindergarten Education in Hong Kong
Kindergartens and kindergarten-cum-child care centres (hereafter collectively referred to as "KG") which are registered with the Education Bureau, provide services for children from three to six years old. At present, most kindergartens operate on a half-day basis and offer upper kindergarten, lower kindergarten and nursery classes. Some kindergartens offer whole-day classes as well. The aim of kindergarten education in Hong Kong is to nurture children to attain all-round development in the domains of ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics; to develop good habits so as to prepare them for life; and to stimulate children’s interest in learning and cultivate in them positive learning attitudes, in order to lay the foundation for their future learning.
2. Present Situation
All kindergartens in Hong Kong are privately run and they can be categorised as non-profit-making (NPM) kindergartens (KGs) and private independent (PI) KGs depending on their sponsoring organisations which can be either voluntary agencies or private enterprises. All kindergartens are registered under the Education Ordinance. Inspectors from the Education Bureau visit kindergartens regularly to give advice to principals and teachers on curriculum, teaching approaches and school administration. The Operation Manual for Pre-primary Institutions, compiled by the Education Bureau and the Social Welfare Department, provides prospective school operators with the necessary information regarding statutory requirements and recommendations for the operation of kindergartens.
Kindergartens vary a lot in their scale of operation and the number of classrooms can range from two to over ten. Most of them however can create a stimulating learning environment that caters for children’s life experience and interests, by setting up different activity centres. For instance, there may be Reading Corner, Mathematics Corner, Nature Corner, Art and Crafts Corner, Music Corner, Home Corner etc. These activity centres are all well equipped with teaching aids to facilitate self-learning.
All children in Hong Kong, irrespective of their nationalities, can apply for fee assistance under the Kindergarten and Child Care Centre Fee Remission Scheme as long as they are under 6 years old, study in kindergartens or child care centres and can fulfill other requirements specified in the scheme. Details can be found at the website of the Student Finance Office (SFO) of the Working Family and Student Financial Assistant Agency (WFSFAA): http://www.wfsfaa.gov.hk/sfo/eng/.
With the impact of global early childhood educational trends as well as the momentum of the Hong Kong education system and curriculum reforms at the beginning of this century, the Curriculum Development Council (CDC) of Hong Kong has published the revised Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum which has been fully implemented in all pre-primary institutions since 2007.
The Guide to the Pre-primary Curriculum emphasises that early childhood education lays the foundation for life-long learning and whole person development. The core value of early childhood education lies in "child-centredness". Pre-primary institutions should formulate their curriculum according to the basic principles of “children’s development” and “children’s learning”. Children's interests, needs and abilities should be taken into consideration. They should also create a stimulating learning environment that facilitates children’s development of multiple intelligences. Through life experiences, sensory encounters, exploration and interesting games, children's holistic development can be fostered.
There are four developmental objectives for young children in the curriculum framework, namely "Physical Development", "Cognitive and Language Development", "Affective and Social Development" and "Aesthetic Development". These objectives can be achieved through six learning areas, which are "Physical Fitness and Health", "Language", "Early Mathematics", "Science and Technology", "Self and Society" and "Arts". Special emphases should be placed in developing children's basic skills, building up basic concepts and cultivating in them positive values and attitudes. In fact, all kinds of learning consist of three key elements, namely "knowledge", "skills" and "attitudes". They nurture children to attain all-round development in the domains of ethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics, so as to prepare them for life and lay the foundation for their future learning.
4. Teacher Qualifications and Statutory Requirement
The minimum academic entry qualification for kindergarten teachers is five passes, including both Chinese and English, in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) / Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination in not more than two sittings.
Since September 2003, all newly appointed kindergarten teachers are required to possess a Qualified Kindergarten Teacher [QKT] qualification or its equivalent. Please refer to the EDBC No. 28/2003 for details.
Starting from 2003/04 school year, all kindergartens are required to attain the teacher-to-pupil ratio at 1:15 or lower.
With the implementation of the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) from the 2007/08 school year, direct fee subsidy to parents and in parallel financial support for teachers’ professional upgrading have been provided.
All new Principals from the 2009/10 school year should have a degree in ECE [BEd(ECE)], one-year post-qualification experience and should have completed a recognized certificate course on principalship, before, or exceptionally within the first year of, their appointment.
Starting from the 2012/13 school year, kindergartens under the PEVS are required to employ sufficient number of teachers possessing the Certificate in Early Childhood Education [C(ECE)] qualifications based on the teacher to pupil ratio of 1:15.
5. Integrated Programme for Mildly Disabled Children
Some kindergarten-cum-child care centres have joined the "Integrated Programme" to provide intensive training and care to mildly disabled children aged 3-6. Through the Programme, children will be better prepared for the mainstream education in the future. For detailed information, please visit the website of the Social Welfare Department: http://www.swd.gov.hk.
6. Primary One Admission System
All children in Hong Kong who have reached the age of 5 years 8 months or older (as at the 1st of September) are eligible to participate in the Primary One Admission System, if they have not been admitted to any primary schools yet. Children will be allocated to primary one of a government or an aided primary school. The purpose of the System is to minimize the pressure imposed on young children as a result of intense competition for primary one places and the adverse effect this may have on kindergarten education. Parents are required to fill in an application form and indicate their choice of schools in the order of preference. The Education Bureau would input the data into the computer and a primary one place will be assigned to each child based on the preference indicated on the application form. All children joining the System will be offered admittance to primary one in a government or an aided primary school.
7. Way Forward
To encourage kindergartens to conduct self-evaluation continuously, the Education Bureau has enhanced the Quality Assurance Framework in the 2012/13 school year. The public and kindergartens may still refer to the set of Performance Indicators in assessing the quality and standard of kindergartens. A new cycle of Quality Review has started in the same school year to further promote the development of quality kindergarten education of Hong Kong.