The Leung Chun-ying government likes to advertise it is the first to introduce free kindergarten education. But that's misleading. In effect, it has extended the directly subsidized school model from primary and secondary schools to kindergartens.
That's a very different beast and its effects will not be the same as having genuinely free schools. They will have real implications for social equity and equal opportunity. Yet, by not calling the new subsidized system for what it is, we will not be having a proper debate.
Hong Kong used to have a simple model for free, compulsory primary and secondary schooling. But after the city's return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after more than a century of British colonial rule, and because of the failed government education reform and the backlash against it, there has been a rapid expansion of the number of subsidized schools.
Previously, schools were free as they were mostly government or aided schools. Now, many schools, especially those that are famous or considered "elite", have switched to subsidized status. After all, what's not to like?
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