Overview of Hong Kong & British Education System Comparison
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Education System: A Comparison
AGE HK UK AGE

Primary School

6 P.1 Year 1 5

Preparatory School

7 P.2 Year 2 6
8 P.3 Year 3 7
9 P.4 Year 4 8
10 P.5 Year 5 9
11 P.6 Year 6 10

Secondary School

12 F.1 Year 7 11
13 F.2 Year 8 12
14 F.3 Year 9 13

Secondary School

HKDSE

15 F.4
Year 10
GCSE/ IGCSE
14
16 F.5
Year 11
15
17 F.6
Year 12
16

Undergraduate

18 Year 1
Year 13
A-Level / BTEC
17
19 Year 2 Year 1 18

Undergraduate

20 Year 3 Year 2 19
21 Year 4 Year 3 20
UK Education System

Preparatory School (Year 1 to Year 8)

In the UK education system, Year 1 to Year 8 in preparatory school (or prep school) are equivalent to the six years of primary school and the first two years of secondary school in Hong Kong. Many preparatory schools are “through-train” schools or with affiliated senior schools in the UK. Apart from academic results, schools also consider students’ performances on areas such as music, sports and extracurricular activities when screening the applications. Some top schools, such as Cheltenham College, even invite applicants to stay overnight in order to understand fully their characters, strengths and weaknesses.

According to the past experiences, the sooner the students study abroad in the UK, the more choices are available for them, and they have higher chances to be accepted by top UK boarding schools.

 

 

Senior School (Year 9 to Year 13)

The UK senior school system is similar to the old education system in Hong Kong. Year 9 (equivalent to Form 3 in Hong Kong) is generally the admission year for senior schools. In general, students study GCSE in Year 10 and 11, and later take A-Level in Year 12 and 13 to enter local or international universities.

 

 

General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)

In Year 10 to 11, students study GCSE, which is similar to HKCEE in the old education system in Hong Kong. Students generally study 7 to 10 subjects. They enjoy more freedom when choosing what to study as there is no restriction on the choices of liberal arts or sciences subjects. Some schools allow students to take International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). The outline of the curriculum is similar to GCSE, but with lower proportion of school-based assessment.

 

 

General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (A-Level)

Students undertake A-Level in Year 12 to 13, which is similar to Form 6 and 7 in Hong Kong’s old education system. They can choose the subjects according to their future study preferences as there is no restriction on the choices of liberal arts or science subjects. In general, students take 3 to 4 subjects and they are eligible to enter UK universities with qualifications in three subjects.

Some UK private colleges and international boarding schools provide A-Level programme with higher flexibility. It is designed for international students with better academic performances and English language skills to complete in shorter period of time, i.e. three semester (one year) or five semesters. Students in one-year programme generally study 3 subjects while students in five-semester programme can study 3 to 4 subjects depending on their abilities.

 

 

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB)

International Baccalaureate (IB) is a curriculum that includes Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP). Acknowledged globally, IB is another option besides A-Level, but this two-year programme in Year 12 and 13 requires more extensive knowledge and abilities, including good reading and writing skills. Apart from studying major subjects from six categories, students must complete other mandatory subjects such as an extended essay. Some international schools in Hong Kong also adopt this curriculum.

 

 

BTEC National Diploma

BTEC National Diploma contains 7 levels. Equivalent to A-Level, the third level of the diploma is a two-year programme, approved by more than 200 universities globally including most of the universities in Hong Kong. This curriculum focuses on imparting practical knowledge and skills. Different from traditional disciplines, it contains subjects including business, design, tourism. Its assessment method mainly based on coursework and projects, with less focus on examination. After completing the diploma, students will receive UCAS score for applying for universities or work.

 

 

Cambridge Pre-U

Cambridge Pre-U is a new two-year curriculum designed by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). It was officially launched in 2008 and adopted by some schools in the UK. The outline of the programme is similar to A-Level, but with more flexibilities in selection of subjects and diversities in assessment methods. Students generally select 3 to 4 subjects from 27 major subjects. They can also combine their study with Pre-U and A-Level, for example selecting two subjects from Cambridge Pre-U and one subject from A-Level, and later apply universities with the combined result. Apart from major subjects, students must also complete Glocal Perspective and Research (GPR). The program has been approved by a number of institutions of higher education, including University of Cambridge University and University of Oxford.

 

 

Foundation Programme

The Foundation Programme is a one-year programme suitable for Hong Kong DSE graduates. Some programmes also accept applications from Form 5 students. The learning model is similar to University, which prepare students to enter undergraduate education.

The programme divides into two categories: The University Foundation Programme links with some individual universities and students who meet the standard can enter the first year of the affiliated university; The International Foundation Programme is provided by individual institutions and students can apply for several universities with the school results.

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