Educational outsourcing: Its introduction in an ‘already outsourced’ education system in Hong Kong and its practice in English teaching

Tae Hee CHOI, Prem Prasad POUDEL

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The critical mass of modern educational provision in Hong Kong has long been provided by the private sector. The public education system was created by the charities and religious bodies during the colonial period, though the government was later involved in the management of the system (see Choi & Kan, forthcoming, for the development of educational governance in Hong Kong). Thus, the presence of the private sector in ‘public’ schooling has long been the norm. When the educational privatisation trend, which started in the US and UK in the 1980s, reached Hong Kong, the government opened doors for further privatisation of public schooling, in the form of educational outsourcing. Educational outsourcing soon became prevalent: a document-based study on outsourcing in English teaching in a third of publicly funded secondary schools (Choi, 2018) showed that three-quarters of schools outsourced, with three contracts per year on average. However, the practice did not draw much attention from the public or scholars, in this ‘already outsourced’ education system (Bates, Choi, & Kim, 2019, p. 10). The lack of attention partly came from the fact that the introduction of educational outsourcing was subtle. It was conducted as part of a wider initiative of the privatisation of public services and occurred through system change rather than through legislation or policy. For instance, the Education Bureau (EDB), a counterpart of the Ministry of Education of some countries, instituted the School-based Management (SBM). The SBM allowed for schools to deploy their funds with maximum autonomy. EDB additionally created funds to support schools through outsourcing. Because English is recognised as a crucial social capital for securing higher education and prestigious jobs, schools mobilised the extra funds to purchase English teaching, making it the most popular area for outsourcing (Choi, Walker, Tang, Ko, & Chiu, 2018). Drawing on data collected through three interrelated research projects on new education privatisation in Hong Kong, including government and school-generated documents (policy, grant reports), a survey, and interviews with three policy makers (officials from the EDB and a government-owned company liaising between educational service providers and schools, and a committee member of the 2000 reform proposal), this presentation illustrates how both visible and invisible structures have driven and shaped the introduction and development of educational outsourcing in Hong Kong. It maps out the outsourcing practice in English teaching and reveals the complex interaction between outsourced ESOL programmes and educational equity. Copyright © 2021 ECER.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
EventEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2021 - Geneva, Switzerland
Duration: 06 Sept 202110 Sept 2021


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2021
Abbreviated titleECER 2021
Internet address


Choi, T.-H., & Poudel, P. P. (2021, September). Educational outsourcing: Its introduction in an ‘already outsourced’ education system in Hong Kong and its practice in English teaching. Paper presented at European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2021), Geneva, Switzerland.


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