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Major Types of Curriculum in Hong Kong

Updated: Nov 30, 2021



Choosing a suitable education curriculum for our children is crucial towards their personal development and pathway. Here are the four major types of curriculum offered in Hong Kong international schools:


1. International Baccalaureate (IB)

- Introduction: IB curriculum offers four education programmes, including Primary Year Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), IB Diploma Programme (IBDP), and Career-related Programme (CP). There are currently 69 international schools or Direct Subsidy Scheme schools in Hong Kong offering IB curriculum, of which 40 are offering PYP, 16 are offering MYP, 37 are offering IBDP, and 6 are offering CP.


- Target: Students who perform well academically, especially those with good English proficiency, writing skills, time management skills and understanding of core subjects. The breadth of the programme is also suitable for those who are still exploring their own university pathway.


- Senior Secondary Curriculum: There are three core requirements in the two-year IBDP including Extended essay (EE), Theory of knowledge (TOK), and Creativity, activity, service (CAS). Candidates must fulfil three core requirements and 1 point would be awarded for each. Candidates must also take one subject from each of the six subject groups (including three taken at Higher Level) and points are awarded from 1 to 7. To receive an IB diploma, they must obtain a minimum of 24 points.


- International recognition: IBDP is recognised by universities globally including the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Candidates can apply for universities around the world after successfully completing all the IBDP requirements. The full score of IBDP is 45 points and the minimum entry requirement set by Oxbridge and Ivy League universities is usually 40 points.


- Examination date: Every May and November



2. A Level curriculum

- Introduction: A Level curriculum is a two-year sixth form qualification for entrance to higher education institutions. A wide range of subjects are offered and there is no

specific subject requirements that it enables students to combine any subjects they would like to take. Harrow International School Hong Kong, Kellett School, and Korean International School are some of the international schools in Hong Kong offering A Level. Hong Kong candidates would sit the International Advanced Level (IAL).


- Target: Students who would like to go on to a U.K. university, and those who already know which subject they want to pursue at university as A Level is a subject-based qualification that could offer more in-depth knowledge.


- Senior Secondary Curriculum: Students normally take four to five subjects in their first year of sixth form, and continue to take three to four of them in the second year. Each subject is graded in six levels from A* to E, and the minimum entry requirement for most of the U.K. universities is 3 passes in the A Level.


- International recognition: A Level is widely recognised around the world and a number of countries and regions have developed their own school-leaving qualification with a similar format to A Level.


- Examination date: Every January (Winter series), or May to June (Summer series)




3. Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum

- Introduction: AP is a special high school programme that allows students to experience college courses in advance. AP curriculum is at a higher level of high school courses and at an introductory level of college courses. AP scores could be transferred to course credit in U.S. universities. There are only less than 10 schools in Hong Kong offering AP curriculum including Christian Alliance International School, Hong Kong International School, and American International School.


- Target: Students who would like to challenge themselves on the subjects they are good at, and to show their own academic potential and interest to colleges.


- Senior Secondary Curriculum: 38 AP subjects in 22 categories are available from core subjects such as English Language and Mathematics, to advanced subjects such as Calculus and Macroeconomics, and foreign languages such as Latin and French. Each subject is scored from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.


- International recognition: AP is a globally recognised programme, candidates may also be granted course credit. However, AP is a United States programme and could only be helpful for applying US universities. For example, Ivy League universities may grant placement to candidates obtaining a score of 5 in three to five subjects.


- Examination date: Every May, any student is also allowed to take the examination regardless of participating in its respective course.


4. Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)

- Introduction: The 3-3-4 Scheme for senior secondary education in Hong Kong began in the 2009 school year. Students would sit the HKDSE examination at the completion of a three-year senior secondary education to gain admissions to local universities through JUPAS. HKDSE comprises three categories of subjects including ‘Senior secondary subjects’, ‘Applied learning subjects’, and ‘Other language subjects’.


- Target: Secondary school students of registered schools in Hong Kong


- Senior Secondary Curriculum: In general, candidates would only take ‘Senior secondary subjects’. There are 24 subjects with 4 core subjects including Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics, and Liberal Studies (which would become Citizenship and Social Development starting from 2024), and 20 elective subjects (candidates would take 2 to 3 elective subjects). Candidates’ performance is reported in 7 levels from 1 to 5**, with 5** being the highest.


- International recognition: HKDSE is widely recognised both locally and internationally, including the United States and Canada. HKDSE is also considered as equivalent to the high school qualification in some countries such as Germany and Australia. In the United Kingdom, HKDSE has been included in the UCAS Tariff system that the qualification is recognised as comparable to the UK GCE A Level.


- Examination date: Every April to May


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