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Marketized private tutoring as a supplement to regular schooling: Liberal Studies and the shadow sector in Hong Kong secondary education

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Around the world, increasing numbers of students receive after-school private supplementary tutoring. Such tutoring may be provided through informal channels or by companies, and it may be received one-to-one, in small groups or in large classes. The tutoring is commonly called shadow education since its content mimics that of regular schooling. The spread of shadow education is part of a global shift of balance with increased roles for the private sector. Hong Kong is among the societies in which shadow education enrolment rates are particularly high. Much of the shadow education focuses on techniques for performance in external examinations, and is not consistent with the emphases stressed by teachers and the government. This paper focuses on a newly introduced subject called Liberal Studies in which the tensions are especially visible. Although the official curriculum emphasizes creativity and critical thinking, many students have sought large-class tutoring focused on formulae for passing examinations. Interviews exposed the needs that the students felt were not being met in their schooling. The findings illustrate some of the complexities in relationships between the public and private sectors. Viewed in a wider context, the paper illuminates some of the mechanisms and effects of marketization, which are increasingly evident globally.
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Keywords: Liberal Studies; educational reform; marketization; private tutoring; shadow education

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 04 May 2014

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