The EDB is responsible for the development, review, and implementation of education policies, programs, and legislation for pre-primary through tertiary education. The EDB also monitors the work of related bodies, such as the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and the Vocational Training Council. While the EDB and its supporting Regional Education Offices (REOs) retain a central role in education governance, curriculum reforms and a shift toward school-based management have increased school autonomy and responsibility.
To facilitate decentralized school-based management, aided schools, which make up the majority of schools in Hong Kong, have been required to establish school-based Incorporated Management Committees (IMCs) since 2004. In addition to representatives of the school sponsoring body, the charitable or religious organization that operates an aided school, an IMC includes the principal, an independent member and at least one representative each of teachers, parents, and alumni. The IMC is responsible for creating policies consistent with the goals of the school sponsoring body; managing financial and human resources; promoting student learning; and participating in school improvement.
There are four Regional Education Offices (REOs) that support school operations. REOs provide leadership on school development and improvement, including school-based management; support the implementation of EDB initiatives, such as curriculum reform; and organize regional teacher networking opportunities to disseminate best practices.
Aided schools, the Hong Kong term for most schools that receive government funds, receive a salary grant, which covers the salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff, and an additional block grant, which they can use flexibly to meet their needs. The amount of the block grant depends on whether the school is a primary, secondary or special education school and how many classes it operates, as well as its eligibility for school-specific grants. These grants cover spending on school-specific needs like information technology or educational psychology services and may be awarded on a per-pupil, per-class or per-school basis, depending on their purpose. There are also other grants for specific purposes such as the Learning Support Grant, which is awarded on a per-pupil basis to support students who are struggling academically in primary schools and students with special needs in primary and secondary schools.
As of 2014, Hong Kong spent 3.6 percent of its GDP on education, lower than the OECD average of 5.2 percent. But the education sector will soon receive a major funding boost, as the 2018-19 budget includes a plan to increase education spending in Hong Kong by over 28 percent compared to the prior fiscal year.
Accountability and Incentive Systems
The EDB has developed a Quality Assurance for Schools program, with a School Development and Accountability framework for school self-assessment. As a key component of school-based management, the School Development and Accountability Framework guides schools in developing a School Development Plan, with implementation details specified in an Annual School Plan and progress updated in a School Report. Participation in this self-assessment process is required. To complement the self-assessment process, the EDB carries out External School Reviews (ESRs). Schools are generally chosen at random for ESRs and notified approximately three months in advance. ESRs are conducted by teams of three to four EDB officers and one practicing educator. Schools are required to make ESR reports available to parents and other members of the school community. In addition to ESRs, the EDB conducts Focus Inspections (FIs), which focus on specific topics that the EDB is interested in learning more about to inform its policies such as teaching and learning in specific subject areas. FIs are typically conducted by inspectors with expertise in the subject area or topic that will be the focus of the inspection. Like ESRs, FIs do not follow any set schedule, but in practice they are conducted more frequently. In 2016-17, more than twice as many schools received FIs as received ESRs.
Support for Low-Performing Schools
Results of the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) are used by schools and the EDB to support school improvement efforts. The EDB does not use TSA results to rank schools or label those in need of improvement, but schools can apply for support services provided by the EDB based on their own results. EDB support officers collaborate with teachers at these schools to help them use their assessment data, including TSA results, to make adjustments to curriculum and instruction to address student learning needs. In 2014-15, more than half of primary schools took advantage of EDB-provided support services focusing on one or more of the three TSA subject areas.
The Quality Assurance for Schools program provides additional support for low-performing schools. Regional Education Offices help schools implement improvement strategies in response to feedback from the External School Review (ESR) process. The format of the ESR report was recently revised to provide more tailored feedback for improvement based on each school’s context, priority areas and stage of development. Schools are now able to request more in-depth review of particular areas in which they want to improve, and the ESR team can adjust the number of days spent at a school depending on its size and needs. School sponsoring bodies, charitable or religious organizations that operate aided schools, also have the option to nominate schools they oversee to receive ESRs and accompanying feedback and supports based on need.