On the Population Policy consultation paper published by the government in 2013, we have the following suggestions:
- The consultation paper expressed concerns for manpower quality and suggested ways to tackle the issue. We agree that the government should study and assess the manpower needs of Hong Kong. However, when formulating its policy, it should not just focus on short-term measures and individual industries only. More importantly, it should review whether our foundation education provides suitable curriculum and adequate learning opportunities to prepare our students for the changing world and a diversified economic base.
- Regarding post-secondary education, the consultation paper calls for greater collaboration between employers and education institutions so that our post-secondary education will meet the needs of our economy. We agree that this will help our graduates prepare for their future career. Nevertheless, our higher education should not narrow itself to manpower training only. Instead it should aim at providing whole-person education, thereby raising the quality of our post-secondary education as well as society as a whole.
At present, post-secondary institutions may admit non-local students up to 20% of their total admission. This policy has been criticized by parents and society. To give local students more chances to receive higher education, we suggest raising the percentage of local students being admitted. To ease the problem of limited higher education places and to widen students’ experience, we welcome the government’s proposal to subsidize students to further their studies in Mainland China. These subsidies should be extended to further studies in Taiwan so that students may have more choices.
- We agree that vocational education should be reviewed because technical and practical subjects have largely disappeared from our foundation education curriculum. The government should examine the curriculum to see if it includes appropriate pre-vocational education and diversified learning elements to inspire interest in vocational education among young people and their parents.
The Applied Learning subjects in the secondary school curriculum aims to provide diversified learning and further study opportunities to our students. Unfortunately, its development has been hindered by limitations such as qualification recognition and teacher accreditation. We ask the government to put forth a holistic curriculum with reasonable treatment and expectation for schools of different types to revive the value of vocational education.
In its 2006 report, Action for the Future – Career-oriented Studies and the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure for Special Schools, the Education Bureau stated that Career-oriented Studies (COS) share the common aim of the school curriculum with other core and elective subjects, i.e., laying a sound foundation for further learning. COS courses also provide a setting for students to develop the necessary values and attitudes for their adult life. We think the vocational education proposed in the present consultation paper should share the same goal.
The government should re-examine the curriculum, pedagogical practice and assessment methods of COS to see if they have addressed the full range of student abilities and interests as claimed in the 2006 report.
- Continuing education
We concur that a qualifications framework (QF) is beneficial to the nurturing of talents and development of society. Although the QF has been in place since 2008, its effects are still less than desirable. We urge the government to put in more effort to promote it as it is related to secondary education as much as it is to the workplace. Further, apart from retaining the Continuing Education Fund, we suggest the government consider launching adult higher education study coupons to subsidize Hong Kong permanent residents to pursue continuing learning after secondary schools according to their choice. This will give them an opportunity to return to formal higher education at a time suitable to them.
To solve the problem of the aging population and low birth rate, many countries offer material incentives to boost the birth rate, but without much success. We believe that if our citizens know that the government will provide their children with quality and people-oriented education which will give their children ample opportunities to develop and flourish, our population may grow. If our society is also people-oriented so that people with different learning abilities and career paths are duly respected and appropriately recognized, some of us may consider returning to the work force. A people-oriented population policy is what we would like to have.