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Selected Development Project
Project Title

State-funded Outsourcing of English Language Education: Does New Education Privatisation Ensure “Quality Education for All” in Hong Kong Secondary Schools?

Principal Investigator Dr CHOI Tae Hee 
Area of Research Project
Educational Leadership, Policy and Administration
Project Period
From 01/2017 To 12/2018
  1. To describe and understand the current policies driving state-funded English language education-related(ELE) outsourcing and their implementation at government and school levels
  2. To analyse the ELE outsourcing in Hong Kong (HK) secondary schools with reference to schools’ socio-economic status profiles
  3. To identify factors affecting quality and equity of the outsourcing within and across four in-depth case studies
  4. To draw out implications for international scholarship and effective practice at the government and school levels

Methods Used
This mixed-methods research involves:
  1. An analysis of policy documents and telephone interviews with 2-3 government officials
  2. A HK wide document-based research, analysing grant reports of 138 schools from six districts with different SES profiles
  3. In-depth case studies in 4 schools involving; document analysis, observations of selected outsourced programmes, and about interviews with staff from schools and outsourcing providers

  4. (From a case study of an outsourced programme)
  5. A synthesis of findings through cross-case and cross-level (government, schools, programmes) comparative analysis.
Preliminary Findings
  1. The documents research of school grant reports shows that the majority of HK schools purchase services/programmes from a third-party. 23 types of purchased services/programmes were identified, and the most popular ones (e.g., remedial classes) show that schools’ priority lies in enhancing students’ academic performances.
  2. Schools show varied practices in ensuring and monitoring the quality of outsourced programmes; even in the same schools, the practice differed across programmes.
  3. Equity implication of the outsourcing is rather complex. The schools of poor districts are purchasing significantly more programmes in English, in an effort to leverage the different footing of students with different SES backgrounds, however, students’ English abilities which correlate with their SES also limit what services/programmes schools can purchase, reinforcing the gap between the rich and the poor.

  4. (For further details, please visit https://www.researchgate.net/project/State-funded-outsourcing-of-English-language-education-Does-new-education-privatisation-ensure-quality-education-for-all-in-Hong-Kong-secondary-schools)

The project has started to have some impacts on HK education in terms of knowledge sharing with policymaker, schools, and educational businesses. In addition, it has already been recognised with the Early Career Award granted by the HK University Grants Council

(At the award ceremony)

as well as media attention (Click to read Sing Pao’s reports on a PPP Forum). Outsourcing of curricular delivery in public schooling is prevalent in HK and beyond, despite the lack of awareness of the public and academia. The preliminary findings show that the outsourcing practice affects the quality and equity of HK education. These all indicates that the significant impact the project will have both within and beyond HK.The findings are shared not just in academia, but with schools and educational businesses, governemnt officials and think tanks in HK and beyond.

(After a sharing session for 150 students and teachers from Korea)
(Policy advisory at the APO)

Selected Output

Choi, T.-H. (2018, October). Education outsourcing in Hong Kong & South Korea. In Choi, T.-H. (Chair). Basic Education Provision in Partnership with 3rd Parties: Practice, Issues, and Ways Forward. Forum conducted at Education Policy Research Cluster Forum Series, Hong Kong, China.

Choi, T.-H. (2018). English education in partnership with third parties: A case of equity in Hong Kong. In S. O. Kweon & B. Spolsky (Eds.), The Asian EFL classroom: Issues, challenges and future expectations (pp. xx-xx). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Choi, T.-H. (2018). Education in partnership with third parties and its equity implications: A case from Hong Kong. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organisation.

Choi, T.-H. (2018, September). Equity of outsourced public education: A case of Hong Kong secondary schools. Paper presented at European Conference of Educational Research, Bolzano, Italy.

Choi, T.-H. (2018, August). The future of public education in partnership with the private sector: Issues and possible policy solutions. Invited speech presented at Forum on the Impact of Education Policies on National Productivity Growth, APO of the UN ESCAP, Manila, Philippines.

Choi, T.-H. (2018, May). English education in partnership with third parties: A case of equity in Hong Kong. Invited Seminar for the Center of Public Policy Research, King’s College London, UK.

Choi, T.-H. (2017, October). State-funded outsourcing of English education: Practice in Hong Kong secondary schools and its implications for quality and equity of education. Guest lecture presented at The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

Choi, T.-H. (2017). Toward a better partnership between schools and educational companies (I): What schools think. Hong Kong: Education University of Hong Kong.

Choi, T.-H. (2017, August). Mapping the outsourcing of English language education in Hong Kong: What education for whom?. In Bates, A. (Chair). Standardizing education policy and practice in the global age: cases from England, China and South Korea. Symposium conducted at the European Conference of Educational Research, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Biography of Principal Investigator

Dr Choi Tae Hee is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Policy and Leadership and a Research Fellow of the Institute's Joseph Lau Luen Hung Charitable Trust Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change, and a Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. She is the Immediate-past President of the Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong after her presidency from 2016-18. She received her MA degree in Second Language Studies at University of Hawaii at Manoa, US, and her PhD in Education from King’s College London, UK.

Her current research focuses on the process and impact of educational policies/reforms in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly concerning English language education/language-in-education and those reflecting neo-liberalism. Her scholarship and expertise in the field is recognised through international awards (e.g. Young Scholar Best Paper Awards, The Asia Pacific Educational Research Association) and advisory-seeking (e.g. Asian Productivity Organization (APO) sponsored by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific as well as by the Development Academy of the Philippines).

Funding Source

Early Career Scheme