Snapshot: A group of parents in Hong Kong considers which type of schooling will best prepare their children for the future. The local schools and international schools offer benefits and drawbacks that will impact their children’s lives now and for many years to come. In making this choice, what responsibilities do they have to their children? Are these decisions purely personal, or do they have societal implications as well?
Case Description: In this case, Benny and Cindy are Hong Kongers who are expecting their first child and excited to share the news with their friends. But their joy is soon shadowed with anxiety as the conversation turns to school choice. Some of their friends have chosen local schools for their children, where pupils are instructed in Chinese and receive intense preparation for high stakes exams that determine their options for higher education. Other friends have chosen international schools, which take a more Western approach to education, in the hopes that these schools will prepare their children to study and live abroad in the future. Which educational values are best for their family? How can they make such an important choice for a baby who hasn’t even been born yet?
This case poses dilemmas that are instantly recognizable to parents around the globe. What rights do parents have to make choices for their children? What responsibilities must they consider when making these choices? More specifically, which values should guide parents choosing a school for their child? Do parents bear any responsibility to the larger society when making decisions for their own family? When not all choices are viable for all families, for financial or other reasons, how can parents decide what’s fair?
This article from the BBC highlights an academic study showing that ethnic minorities are marginalized by the education system in Hong Kong, particularly as the schools lack curriculum for students who need to learn Cantonese at school because they don’t speak it at home.
For a clearer understanding of why local Hong Kong parents send their children to international schools, see Ng, V. (2012). The decision to send local children to international schools in Hong Kong: Local parents’ perspectives, Asia Pacific Education Review 13: 121-136.