Replanting the Flower in Different Soil? A Critical Analysis of Education Borrowing in Hong Kong

Anthony Chow


This paper critically analyses the impact the New Senior Secondary (NSS) has had on Hong
Kong through Phillips and Ochs’ four-stage model of policy borrowing in education. It argues
that the Hong Kong government overlooked the fundamental contextual differences between
the two curricula, and that this incompatibility has led to various challenges in integrating the
NSS into the existing education system. This paper also contributes to the methodological
literature on comparative education and theorisation of education borrowing by illustrating
the importance of context. The monopolistic and generalisation assumptions in the positivist
paradigm have misled many governments to reify statistics and uncritically transfer
incompatible policies to their home countries; the case of the NSS in Hong Kong is an
example of this. Although the interpretivist paradigm helps comparativists better understand
local context, it is also important to be aware of the limitations of the analytical model used
here. Phillips and Ochs’ model was developed based on observations of education borrowing
between England and Germany, and it might not truly represent the situation in non-English
speaking Asian countries. Also, the model was not specifically built for a capitalist economy,
and, therefore, comparativists also need to be aware of the economic structure of the country
they are studying, as this can greatly affect the aim of public education. Further study should
incorporate literatures and models from Asian countries in order to make the analysis more

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