Hong Kong’s education environment is high stress and elitist.

Students spend 10 hours on studying, not including the time on homework. 92% of students felt pressure in preparing for the HKDSE and 37% described such pressure as severe. One student called our education system a “selection process” for the best. Almost 10 out of 10 students have had private tutoring.

Parents dictate children’s educational choices.

62.5% of students thought that the aim of studying was to satisfy the wishes of parents or relatives.

Overall, HK youth’s education level is high and rising.

Youth population that attained post-secondary education level more than doubled from 24.9% in 2000 to 53.8% in 2016, mainly due to the increase in self-financing degrees

Principals and teachers are under immense pressure.

63% of teachers were overworked by administrative tasks. 93% of teachers felt burdened by parent enquiries. Despite all this, teachers are expected to keep up with reforms and developments and devise innovate pedagogies with minimal guidance.

Hong Kong has undergone multiple educational reforms, but outcomes are not visible.

The biggest obstacle is the misalignment of stakeholders’ incentives. To students and parents, getting into university and getting a good job seems to be education’s only objective, directly contradicting the rationale of reform.

Trading and logistics, tourism, financial services and professional and producer services have created job opportunities for half of HK’s labour population. Yet other industries can also drive economic development, such as I.T., testing and certification services, cultural and creative industries and environmental industries. The manpower requirements of these industries are projected to grow faster than the whole economy.
  • In 1995, there were only 12.9% of young people aged 20 to 29 in the working population who attained bachelor’s degree or above. This percentage has dramatically increased to 45.9% in 2015.
  • While youth labour supply has rapidly risen in the past two decades, the increase in labour demand for higher-skilled positions has not caught up.
  • 68-69% of students and parents have never heard of “vocational and professional education and training”. Only 16% regard “vocational and professional education and training” as a professional qualification.
  • This is so even though the starting salaries as technicians in car maintenance, lift and escalator engineering, and air-conditioner maintenance, are higher in most cases than the median monthly wage of youth of HK$11,900 in 2016.

Hong Kong’s performance in terms of youth’s health and wellbeing has room for improvement, compared to other economies

According to the Commonwealth Youth Development Index 2016, we ranked 116th among 183 countries in the health and wellbeing domain, lower than a number of comparatively less developed countries.

Mental disorders among youth have become increasingly prevalent

The caseload of the child and adolescent psychiatric teams of the Hospital Authority rose from 18,900 in 2011-12 to 28,800 in 2015-16, representing an increase by more than 50% in five years.

Young people need to be more resilient in face of life challenges

In Hong Kong, suicide and self-harm are the main reasons for youth mortality. In 2016, 69 youth under the age of 24 committed suicide.

Young people don’t have a proper work-life balance

On average, students in Hong Kong only have around 6 hours of sleep per day and only 8.4% of youth can fulfill WHO’s advice on accumulating 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Much time is spent on school, homework as well as tutorial classes.

Young people face health risks in the virtual world

72.9% of youth reported being victims of cyberbullying while 68% reported being involved in cyberbullying. Internet addiction is also a problem.


Extra-curricular activities serve functional purposes. Many youth partake in these activities only to fulfill school requirements, as pressured by parents and peers, and for resume building.

An elitist culture is prevalent in the ecology of extracurricular activities. Parents and schools place high importance on performance. Youth who do not attain “elitist” level in these activities may be discouraged from further developing their interests.

Academic result is the predominant factor in assessing young people’s achievements. Many youth are discouraged from pursuing advancement in their interest areas or making them their life-long passion, due to the lack of societal recognition for non-academic achievements, hardware and software support, and a clear and hopeful future. 

While extracurricular activities have become an essential part of many youth’s daily lives, youth from less privileged family backgrounds encounter difficulties in terms of family finances, network and knowledge. Our ideals for whole-person development must not exclude those youth who are in less privileged positions.

We need to enhance the global perspective of our youth. Currently, various kinds of exchange programmes are being organised by the Government, NGOs and private foundations to offer youth experiences and exposures to other cultures. Universities and tertiary institutions also provide academic exchange opportunities for their students to study at an overseas institution for a prolonged period.

Youth spend the most of their social time online nowadays, but they lack the understanding of the safety concerns for online activities and the consequences of their behaviours. Cyber bullying, fraudulent behaviours and malicious hacking of official websites oftentimes happen.

Our youth are increasingly concerned about public policies and civic affairs. According to a 2016 survey conducted by AIESEC Hong Kong, 71% of surveyed youth expressed that they were willing to make an effort to improve Hong Kong.

Youth voter registration and turnout rates have risen. 67% of our youth aged between 18 and 25 are registered voters (374,000). We have an increased turn-out rate for elections in recent years. In the 2016 Legislative Council election, 55% of voters aged 21-25 went to the polls, up from 46% in 2012.

The Internet is the main platform for their civic participation. According to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups in 2014 on youth’s online social participation, 68% of the youth respondents of that survey reported that the Internet is their main source of information on current affairs.

Their participation, however, seems to stay online only. A study on Youth Political Participation and Social Media Use in Hong Kong conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong shows that the majority of youth have not participated in offline political actions.

Currently, the government consultation channels do not appeal to youth. Many youth found the consultative and engagement sessions not effective enough to engage youngsters. The Internet is being under-utilised for the purpose of information dissemination and opinion collection. Youth representation in government advisory and statutory bodies varies.

In Hong Kong, we have a lot of youth volunteers, but their motivations for volunteering vary. While many are motivated by their desire to contribute and incentivised by the personal learning and network gained, many youths expressed that they participated in the voluntary services so as to fulfil the requirement for Other Learning Experiences (OLE) for the DSE curriculum.

Youths with Disabilities (YWDs)

Employers interested in hiring disabled employees in the next three years : Only 17%

Information source: A survey conducted by CareER in 2016

  • Under the current policy for integrated education, the support measures focus on providing palliative assistance only, such as special arrangements during exams. YWDs need extra learning support to keep up their learning pace with mainstream students.
  • We need to enhance the relevant training for teachers. Under the existing mechanism, schools are required to send 10-15% of their teachers to attend a 30-hour introductory course on integrated education. Teachers expressed that both the proportion of teachers sent for this course and the depth and breadth of the course content are not enough.
  • YWDs face serious challenges in securing their first job after graduation, which is a crucial step for their careers. CareER, a social enterprise specialising in job-matching for students and graduates with disabilities, interviewed 103 employers in 2016, and just 17% said they are interested in hiring disabled employees in the next three years while 55% said they will not.
  • There are numerous assessment and treatment services available in the public health sector for the youth with suspected disabilities, and the waiting time depends on seriousness of the children’s / youth’s condition, the number of patients and the situation of human resources in the sector. In our engagement session with YWDs and their social workers, there is a consensus that the waiting time needs to be shortened.

Ethnic Minorities (EM)

  • Ethnic minorities (EM) in Hong Kong generally have a lower proficiency in Chinese. According to a survey which interviewed 378 students aged 12 to 23 and 107 job seekers and workers aged 16 to 50, more than 60% admitted that their Chinese proficiency remains at primary education level.
  • EM youth also expressed that given their Chinese proficiency level, it is difficult for them to find jobs in the fields they like, and have to resort to other jobs like delivery, waiting and security, which have less expectation for them to read and write in Chinese. 
  • EM youth have a lower education attainment than mainstream youth. According to a study done by the then Hong Kong Institute of Education, the pre-form five dropout rates for Pakistani and Nepalese students - two of the largest ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong - were 15.6 per cent and 20.6 per cent respectively in 2011, while the rate for local Chinese students was only 6.4 per cent. 
  • Discrimination against EM in Hong Kong is still a prevalent issue, despite legal protection and community’s publicity and public education efforts. According to the findings of a survey in 2005, 60% of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong perceived that their ethnicity would determine their career progress.

Youth at risk

  • Youth-at-risk, who sometimes are dropouts or potential dropouts from schools, demonstrate risky behaviours that are considered deviant from social norms or even potentially criminal.
  • Being involved in deviant youth groups or juvenile gangs, youth at risk are prone to a host of problematic behaviours, such as alcohol and substance abuse as well as potentially criminal “jobs”.

Sexual Minorities

  • According to a study, discrimination faced by LGBT students is still prevalent. Nearly more than half (53%) of 500 self-identified homosexual secondary school students reported experience of different degrees of discrimination, including being verbally insulted (42%), being socially excluded (40%) and suffering from physical injury or sexual harassment (14%).
  • Discrimination against LGBT is prevalent in the workplace. 29% of the employees reported that they had experienced discrimination in the last five years in employment due to their sexual orientation. It also showed that younger and less educated employees were more vulnerable to discrimination. Study has found that LGBT employees have had fewer training or development opportunities (28%), being denied a promotion that they were qualified for (24%), being asked to leave the job (15%) and being denied a job offer (13%).
  • LGBT youth require extra psychological support. They reported that support measures were insufficient in schools. In particular, schools lack resources on educating students about different sexual orientations and youngsters encounter difficulty in finding a teacher or social worker whom they can trust.