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Hong Kong
Hong Kong

November 24, 2013

Hong Kong: Operating Underground; Hoping for Change

By Cam Highfield

In early October, I attended the Asian homeschool conference held in Taipei, Taiwan. This was the first time I've attended any homeschooling conference since I restarted homeschooling in Hong Kong a year and a half ago. Along with representatives from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and mainland China (whose presentation had to be done by Taipei representatives as they couldn't attain a visa in time), we presented and discussed the respective legal situations in our countries.

In Hong Kong, homeschooling is still considered illegal by most, although there are a number of families who are conducting homeschooling under ongoing assessment by the Education Bureau, whose officers normally conduct an interview first, followed by half-yearly home visits. The law however does provide space for broad interpretation about what ‘school’ means, and we can try to convince the officers with ‘reasonable excuse’ from school attendance as stipulated in the law. Homeschoolers are groups under the ‘Non-attendance case team.’ Currently, by practicing homeschooling, we relinquish all rights that a student has by attending a public school full-time.

Taiwan seems to be the only other predominantly Chinese area that has legalized homeschooling. Their experience is therefore important to us. Apart from watching a great documentary about Taiwan’s homeschooling, I spent a day listening to the experiences of homeschoolers from other Asian countries, and found out that the situations in Japan, South Korea and mainland China are fairly similar to Hong Kong—except that in Hong Kong our homeschool community is very small. So far, there are only approximately 50 known families, mostly operating underground, i.e. without knowledge of the government.

With the help of Tim Chen, organizer of Taiwan Homeschool Advocates, I visited a local elementary school and a private school opened by a homeschool mother 12 years ago. I saw how the two schools cooperate in the larger education system. I have recorded part of the conversation and hope to present it to our Education Bureau in due course.

The conference has given me encouragement to organize a conference in Hong Kong late next year. Our focus will be the legal climate for homeschooling and encouraging families to homeschool. Besides our hope to legalize homeschooling, we also hope to bring about a healthier and less-pressured learning culture in Hong Kong, one that celebrates diversity, choice, a child’s individual strengths and respects quality family time—all elements that homeschooling embraces. The brainstorming process has started, and we have now gathered a group of like-minded people of various backgrounds to prepare this parent-initiated conference. We look forward to sharing more good news with you this time next year.

Arni and Cam Highfield homeschool their children in Hong Kong.

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Hong Kong page.