I look forward to Hong Kong establishing high-quality vocational and professional education and training (VPET) to help students fully develop their unique abilities, and boost the diversification and competitiveness of Hong Kong’s economy in the long run.
It is well known that talent is the fundamental factor of competition. Conventional academic education may not be suitable for all students, while VPET can meet the learning and development needs of people with different interests and abilities, thus enriching the types of talents and facilitating economic diversification. As President Xi Jinping stressed in his speech on 1 July, we must give special care to young people, helping them with their difficulties in studies, employment and home purchase so that more opportunities will be created for their development and accomplishment. Hong Kong should explore how VPET can be used to enhance young people’s capabilities and assist them in upward mobility, as well as to sustain Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the long run.
Formulate industrial policies and blueprint for vocational education
For a long time, the HKSAR Government has indeed allocated a lot of resources to strengthen the development of local VPET, including setting up the Task Force on promotion of VPET and setting aside funds to convert the Pilot Training and Support Scheme into a regular scheme. It has also announced four degree programmes for the Pilot Project on the Development of Applied Degree Programmes.
Nevertheless, while it is important to allocate resources, it is more important that the Education Bureau proactively address the needs of Hong Kong for manpower development and formulate a comprehensive blueprint for the development of vocational education and training. For example, to implement the innovation and technology (I&T) and re-industrialization policies and to cope with the huge shortage in nursing talents amid population ageing and new types of epidemics, should the Government consider targeted increases in vocational education and training courses and an increase in the funding cap? Going forward, with the development of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), which may lead to industrial and manpower transformation, should Hong Kong draw reference from the approach of Singapore’s Future Economy Council to review and optimize industrial policies and tailor training on the skills required for relevant emerging occupations?
Encourage business participation and improve the Qualifications Framework
The key to the success of VPET lies in application. The reason for the high level of recognition and acceptance of vocational education in Germany is that chambers of commerce and professional organizations actively work with vocational training institutions to design educational courses and training examinations, and offer practical and reliable career planning advice. In contrast, employers’ involvement in vocational education is limited in Hong Kong. The Government should encourage educational institutions and industries to collaborate on offering dual-track education programmes, give incentives to encourage active participation from the business community to provide students with more internship opportunities or apprenticeship training, and explore opportunities for cross-border internships with other Greater Bay Area cities.
VPET students will be able to improve their technical level through continuous education, and correspondingly need to obtain qualifications at different educational levels. When I was serving as the Chairman of the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ), I witnessed the remit of the HKCAAVQ being extended from the degree programmes offered by Hong Kong’s higher education institutions to vocational training. I also witnessed the establishment of the Qualifications Framework and the Qualifications Register with quality assurance being undertaken. In the future, to meet the development needs of different occupations, the Government must keep pace with the times to improve the Qualifications Framework and discuss with the country to further expand the scope of mutual recognition of vocational qualifications.
Improve the professional image of VPET
Internationally, some advanced countries such as Germany and Switzerland attach great importance to vocational education, while China has amended the Vocational Education Law of the People’s Republic of China this year, stressing that “vocational education is an education type with the same important status as general education” and to “support the construction of high-level vocational schools and programs of study”. In Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government’s Steering Committee on Population Policy stated in its consultation document entitled “Thoughts for Hong Kong” in 2013 that we should revive the value of vocational education, which should not be seen as a second-class choice. However, the results have not been satisfactory, with no significant improvement in the public’s acceptance and the image of VPET over the years. To increase the public’s acceptance of vocational education and change the traditional notion that “all trades and occupations are inferior compared to academic pursuits”, the Government must play a leading role to further step up publicity and enrich the information on the VPET website. It must also allocate more resources to support educational institutions in holding skill competitions and practical research to enhance the professional image of vocational education. More importantly, it must ensure that there is an effective VPET system in place to give people a clear career path so that young people and the public can see the value of VPET, which is the fundamental way to enhance its image.
As noted in the Analects of Confucius, students should be taught in accordance with their aptitude. I look forward to Hong Kong establishing high-quality VPET to help students fully develop their unique abilities and truly gain a sense of career satisfaction and personal achievement, and facilitate the diversification and competitiveness of Hong Kong’s economy in the long run.
This is a free translation. For the exact meaning of the article, please refer to the Chinese version.
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