Before Christmas season in 2006, the finance committee of the Legislative Council approved the controversial HK$2 billion pre-school scheme to subsidise early childhood education. Under the subsidy plan, parents whose children study in non-profit-making kindergarten get an education voucher of HK$13,000 per student per year from the 2007-2008 school year, provided the annual school fees do not exceed HK$24,000 for half-day kindergartens or HK$48,000 for whole-day kindergartens.
Primary education in Hong Kong covers a wide curriculum. Core subjects include Chinese, English, Mathematics ,and General Studies with broad emphasis on Music, Physical Education and Arts. In some schools Science is taught as well. Formerly there were three knowledge-oriented subjects: Social Studies, Health Education and Science. In the 1996-1997 academic year the Education Department amalgamated these subjects into the new subject of General Studies. Depending on the religious background of the school, Religious Education or Bible Studies could be incorporated. The teaching medium in most of the local primary schools is Chinese with English as a second language. After the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, only a handful of primary schools and secondary schools are able to keep English as the medium of instruction under new government policies. Those schools are generally referred to as English as Medium of Instruction schools (EMI).
Secondary education in Hong Kong is largely based on the English schooling system, with 10% being single-sex education institutions. In Form 4, most students of grammar schools are required to choose between streams, namely "Science", "Arts" and "Commerce", depending on the school policy. The end of Form 5 leads to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE). The exam is equivalent to the UK's GCSEs or O-levels exams.
Students obtaining a satisfactory grade in the HKCEE will be promoted to Form 6. The Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) then acts as the de facto university entrance examination akin to the UK's GCE A-levels. At this level streaming is even more rigidly specialised dividing into Mathematics/Engineering stream, Biology/Medical stream or Arts stream for example.
Prerequisites for university admissions include Grade "E" or better in the HKALE Chinese Language and Culture and Use of English subjects and 2 other A-level equivalent subjects. The Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) determines admission to tertiary institutions largely based on HKALE and HKCEE results. However, students achieving more than 6 'A's in their HKCEEs are eligible to apply for early admissions through the Early Admissions Scheme (EAS) including The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
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