China Daily (Hong Kong) : 2019-01-14

COMMENT HK : 10 : 10

COMMENT HK

10 CHINA DAILY | | Monday, January 14, 2019 HONG KONG EDITION COMMENTHK Reform education to address Hong Kong’s manpower mismatch Editor’s note: China Daily Hong Kong Edition has launched a photo-sharing campaign on Instagram. You can share your photos by tagging #hk24hr, and we’ll choose the best ones to publish in the newspaper. A security guard closing a door on a billboard blends in with the scene of an advertisement, almost like lifting the woman on it. Sonny Lo says HKSAR needs to undertake educational reforms if it wants to produce young talents who can compete in Bay Area I t has been a long tradition, and in fact bias, of many Hong Kong parents who expect and require their children to go to universities to study for degrees in law, medicine, finance and business. The reason is obvious. Given that these disciplines are widely believed to produce graduates and professionals with higher incomes and status, the materialistic society of Hong Kong churns out movies and television series depicting successful professionals who majored in medicine, law and finance. There is an inherent bias in the entire society of what disciplines school children should pursue in their tertiary education in order to be rich and famous. However, this bias has had far-reaching negative consequences for Hong Kong’s development of human resources. First and foremost, there is now a serious mismatch between what the education system is producing and what the market needs. Hong Kong now requires more skilled workers with managerial, administrative and technical expertise in both science and technology. The development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, including the establishment of a scientific fund for Hong Kong scientists, calls for Hong Kong to nurture more talents to help advance innovation and technology. The ongoing emphasis by the government and the entire education system on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is an attempt to address this mismatch. Nevertheless, the education authorities have to ensure that the curriculum reforms in STEM at the secondary level are solid enough to provide a good foundation for secondary students to advance to either universities or vocational training. The second consequence of the long-standing mismatch is that parents and students tend to develop their bias against vocational training. In many other economies, students who go into the vocational stream are not discriminated against nor regarded as secondrate professionals. In Hong Kong, however, some parents and even students see vocational training as inferior to a university education. This is the result of deep-seated bias among Chinese families and partly due to a lack of appropriate educational publicity by both the government and school authorities at the secondary level. Such publicity efforts will have to be enhanced, including the need to publicize successful professionals from the vocational training sector, and inviting them to share their stories with secondary school students. The crux of the problem of the existing education system in Hong Kong is that the two streams — science and mathematics, and arts and humanities — are artificially entrenched at the secondary school system, where students are asked to select one of the two streams in the middle of their secondary school years.Arguably, this artificial separation of students into two streams is too early, premature and detrimental to their development. Quite often, students who are uninterested in the two streams would go into vocational training, which is then viewed unfairly as a repository for under-performing students. For those students who select the two streams in the middle of their secondary school years, the smarter ones are expected by their parents and peers to opt for science and mathematics stream, while the less bright ones are forced to go into arts and humanities stream. The result is devastating to the development of students in this secondary school system; they Sonny Lo The author is a senior academic and veteran current affairs commentator. are divided into three classes, the “worst” go into vocational stream, the “better” ones go into arts and humanities, and the “brightest” ones go into science and mathematics. This artificial streaming of students will have to end as early as possible if for no other reason than to eliminate the stigma attached to vocational training. In other words, the current streaming of students should be abolished and instead the secondary school system should provide multiple pathways for students to pursue their interests through a new examination system so as to provide more options that would maximize an individual student’s potential. In other words, a new examination system, which may be developed from the current Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, should ideally involve five categories: (1) core subjects like Chinese language, English language and mathematics; (2) arts, humanities and social science subjects like Chinese literature, music, liberal studies, and other languages; (3) science and technology like engineering and applied science; (4) business, finance and law, and (5) vocational subjects. In short, secondary students who opt for the newly revamped Diploma of Secondary Education will then be able to select their categories earlier with much wider choices. Vocational subjects should be integrated into the secondary school curriculum reform, while more categories should be provided for arts, humanities, social sciences, science and technology, finance, business and law. Presently, the Diploma of Secondary Education lacks an arguably organized structure that can provide students with a sufficiently wide range of choices. What happens if some secondary schools cannot provide courses with vocational training? Here, the current vocational training schools in Hong Kong should strive to improve their collaboration with the newly reformed secondary school system to ease their students’ further education with various vocational training schools. At the same time, the government should ideally hold annual tripartite meetings with not only the representatives of employers’ organizations and major industries but also all the authorities of governmentfunded and private universities on the projection of Hong Kong’s manpower needs. This would help the government to develop a long-term human resources strategy, and not to be caught off guard again seeing our business and industry unable to meet their manpower needs. If Hong Kong is to enhance its competitiveness in the country and the Asia-Pacific region, the nurturing of young talents needs drastic reforms, including curriculum reforms at the secondary school level, and most importantly a triangular partnership in manpower assessment between the government, employers and the universities. If these structural problems are not addressed, Hong Kong’s competitiveness will surely decline in the coming years. The ability to combine environmental protection, heritage, culture, design, as well as digital services to enable authentic living and not just commercial gain is challenging but Hong Kong has experienced people to do it, if they are given the opportunity to work with stakeholders. Technology is an equalizer in an age when individuality rules the ability of the masses to record their experiences, find meaning and self-value. To connect with and influence others is a privilege that used to belong to a few people. There have been growing incentives and necessity for people to make themselves seen and noticed on online social networks. The motivating factors include the success stories of online celebrities whose ascendency to fame and influence seems a plausible career path. Also at work is pressure to follow the mainstream when most of our friends and associates are active networking socially online. Though people’s choices may differ in how to use the tools offered by technological advancements, it is important we learn how these tools work, and recognize that they are changing how we conduct ourselves and interact with other people in society. making a heroic journey. A large screen showed her every movement. All eyes were on her. The way I remember it, she was the star in that one-minute film. It might be the closest thing she had experienced how it felt like to be a real star drawing everybody’s attention. With smartphones, the girl’s family probably had every second of the moment recorded in video. They will have accurate materials to rely on to recall the experience. This used to be a luxury. Only people with power and resources would have photos and videos of themselves passed down for children and a wider audience to view. Now many babies from a typical family will grow up to find in their parents’ phones and cameras enough photos and videos to organize an exhibition about their early life. Technological progress has democratized experimenting with better creations. They share the traits of enterprising people who put their ideas, crafts and creativity to the test. Through the trialand-error process, they learn and may get better and better at solving other problems life thrown at them. Most people just enjoy the unprecedented convenience of self-expression and networking with others. In December, I visited an ocean park in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. During a show starring a group of highly trained dolphins, a lucky teenage girl had a ride on a raft pulled by dolphins. She was chosen from 1,000-plus visitors. The excited crowd became quiet when Celine Dion’s song started playing. Then the girl set off to float on water with the raft. The ride lasted about one minute. With the dolphins difficult to be seen under water, she appeared solitary as if responses often come in emoticons, teasing or well-wishing notes. Most people now have the tools to build a public image online and manage it as a personal brand. There is always an audience looking for entertainment, knowledge or connection. The prime examples are online celebrities proliferating worldwide, as livestreaming hosts and video bloggers generate interesting content to keep people’s idle time occupied. Some even made a fortune, claiming millions of subscribers in areas from history, science, to sports and games, from cooking, travel, to makeup tips and pets. The beneficiaries of technological innovations are by no means limited to those who found financial success. It is also beneficial to society at large. Many having not yet made a mark obtain useful experience instead and keep It is human nature that we all want attention and recognition. It reassures us that we get along with people and enjoy the environment around us. In all relationships we maintain from childhood to adulthood, support and approval from people who matter to us are important for our well-being. Now, affordable access to smartphones and internet connection means never before have so many people been able to express themselves and seek others’ attention with greater convenience. To get noticed by a sizeable group used to be a privilege exclusive to public figures and celebrities. Today, most people can have a chance of getting wider attention. It is only a click away to share on social networks what we thought, read, ate, bought and saw. Opening up a slice of our life to be seen online, we know people will pay attention. The Monday Vibes Li Yao The author is news editor for China Daily Hong Kong. I Will Always Love You

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