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Speech at Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Speech by Mrs Fanny Law, GBS, JP

Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower, HKSAR

to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

                                    on Thursday, 6 October 2005                      


“Nurturing Global Citizen”



Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,


           Thank you for inviting me to join you for breakfast and to share with you some thoughts on how education in Hong Kong prepares our young people to be global citizens.  As the world becomes a global village and nations become more inter-dependent with increased movement of goods, capital, people, images and information across boundaries, relationships change, mindset must change, the skills required for effective work also change.


Global Citizens


           To be “global citizens”, we must:


l            understand how the world works economically, politically, socially, culturally, technologically and environmentally;

l            respect and value diversity and cultural differences; and

l            be willing to contribute to the collective well-being of the global community and make the world a more sustainable place in which to live.


           Mark Gerzon, director of the Global Leadership Network, speaks of “becoming”, not being, a global citizen, because global citizens have “to live according to values that are good for the world”.  Global citizenship is thus a way of thinking, an outlook on life, and a belief that one can make a difference.


Hong Kong


           As an international financial centre and an open economy, Hong Kong is no newcomer to the globalization process.  By historical accident, Hong Kong has been the meeting place of the East and the West.  Freedom of speech and association, the rule of law, a free economy, level playing field, and low taxation ensure our status as a global metropolis. Immigrants, migrants and workers from various parts of the world have contributed to the development of a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural environment, with Chinese cultural heritage being the backbone of our society.  Together they provide a nourishing seedbed for nurturing our young people to become global citizens.


The education reform


           In preparing our younger generation to cope with the challenges of globalization and the knowledge-based economy, Hong Kong , just as other countries and regions, has initiated education reform. One of the aims of the reform is to help students develop a global outlook and appreciate diversity and cultural differences.


           Global issues, such as poverty and hunger, war and peace, and global warming, and ways to tackle problems of common concern (e.g. environmental protection) are introduced into the curriculum, starting at the primary level.  Through the study of global issues, we expect students to increase their awareness of issues that affect the human race, sharpen their sensitivity to human plight, and develop a more caring attitude towards the poor and disadvantaged.  Through enquiry learning, students master some basic understanding and appreciation of people and cultures around the world.  


           Our junior secondary students are exposed to the idea of the emergence of global identity in an interdependent world, alongside their identity as Hong Kong residents and Chinese nationals.  For instance, students may investigate the socio-economic and cultural impact of global corporations.  Through the study of daily life issues with global implications, students will develop multiple perspectives and reflect on their own identities and relationships with other people and cultures.


           We have recently proposed a new senior secondary curriculum, with Liberal Studies as one of the four core subjects, to be implemented from 2009.  Through Liberal Studies, we aim to broaden the knowledge base and develop in students multiple perspectives of contemporary issues at personal, societal, national and global levels, so that they will become informed and responsible citizens of their society, country and the world.


          Globalization is one of six core modules in Liberal Studies.  The others are “Personal Development and Human Relationship”, “Hong Kong Today”, “Modern China”, “Public Health and Biotechnology” and “Energy and the Environment”.  In “Globalization”, students will explore the meaning, the trend and the impact of globalization, the opportunities and challenges brought by globalization, different perceptions of globalization and the responses from different nations.  In the process, students will discuss issues about dissemination and customization of cultures and values, cultural domination and vanishing cultures, and cultural conflicts. 


           The curriculum also requires students to conduct an independent enquiry study on an issue of their choice concerning the media, religion, sports, art, information and communication technology or education.  The Independent Enquiry Study provides an invaluable opportunity to enhance self-directed learning skills.


           In addition, we wish our students to be proficient in the use of English and IT.  These are the global communication tools that are essential for tapping new knowledge and to engage with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.  Hong Kong has invested significantly in English language education since 1998, and we are beginning to reap the benefits from the provision of Native English Teachers to schools, and intensive measures to upgrade the professional capacity of local teachers.  We have also laid a solid foundation for IT in education, and our students today demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the use of IT for learning. 


           In the ambience of education reform, our children also enjoy the benefits of exchange programmes and visits to the Mainland and other parts of the world organized by the EMB, individual primary and secondary schools, and the universities.  Such kind of co-curricular or extra-curricular activities could broaden the perspectives of students and develop an understanding of different cultural heritage and traditions.   This would facilitate their growth into truly global citizens.


International schools


           Having talked about how the local meets the global, I would like to turn to how the global meets the local. 


           At present, we have 56 international schools in Hong Kong offering a total of 34,000 primary and secondary school places.  They operate different curricula, including those of the United Kingdom , the United States , Australia , Canada , Japan , Korea , Germany , France , Singapore and the International Baccalaureate Organization. The 2004/05 enrolment was about 29,000 students of over 55 nationalities. 


           As in the case of local schools, the demand for different curricula among individual international schools and at various levels of education is highly uneven.  Despite an overall vacancy rate of about 13%, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the more popular schools are grossly over-subscribed with a long waiting list.  We are in the midst of carrying out a survey to find out the enrolment for 2005/06 school year at individual international schools and at each level of study.  We expect to receive the schools’ responses and complete the analysis in two months.


           The Hong Kong SAR Government supports the development of a vibrant international school sector to underpin our aspiration to be Asia ’s World City and an education hub for the region.  We have provided various forms of assistance to international schools, including land grant, interest-free loan for school building, and nominal rent for the leasing of government premises.


           We see the benefits of local students studying alongside expatriate children to develop better appreciation of cultural diversity.  At present, more local students opt for international schools than the reverse.  Some of them may have difficulty coping with the local curriculum and school work, some may wish to acquaint themselves with the overseas curriculum before going abroad, and others may simply be looking for an authentic English learning environment.  Among the students of English School Foundation schools, for example, about 40%  come from Chinese speaking families. 


           There are 112 English medium secondary schools in Hong Kong , of which 22 are top-notch schools with a long tradition.  For example, Diocesan Girls’ School and St Paul ’s Co-ed College .  They are extremely popular among local parents and have made great strides in recent years in liberalizing their curriculum and pedagogical practices.  Every year, many of the graduates from these schools are admitted to world class universities, including Harvard, Oxbridge, University of Toronto etc.  This is testimony of the quality and global acceptance of the education offered by these schools.


           In view of the trend of globalization, increasingly local schools see the benefit of cultural diversity among their students, and welcome expatriate students.  To expatriate students, going to a local school enables them to become immersed in the Hong Kong culture, and learn the Chinese language more easily, and become truly bicultural. Expatriate children whose parents are Hong Kong permanent residents or working in Hong Kong can enjoy free basic education up to secondary three.  At the senior secondary level, the tuition fee is also far less than those of international schools.  Lack of Chinese language proficiency is not a barrier to admission.  The government will support local schools in offering a second or third language option, such as Spanish, French or German, for non-Chinese speaking students who do not wish to take Chinese.


           Since 1999, the HKSAR Government has supported the construction of nine Private Independent Schools.  The first has come into operation in 2004.  The other eight will come into operation between 2006 and 2010.  Together they provide a total of 14 800 primary and secondary places.  These schools enjoy freedom in the choice of curriculum.  Many of them would offer the International Baccalaureate programmes or develop school-based curricula that are consistent with the educational goals of the 21st century. 


           As education systems around the world attach increased importance to generic skills and self-directed learning, the trend is convergence among different national curricula.  Be it a local school, a private independent school, or an international school with a national curriculum, the common goal is to nurture global citizens with literacy and numeracy, creativity and critical thinking, social and communication skills, awareness of global issues, empathy and integrity, and aptitude for lifelong learning. 


           In future, we hope to see more collaboration between international and local schools.  These can take many forms, occur at different levels and involve various stakeholders.  There can be short-term exchanges of students or teachers, mutual visits and lesson observations, joint lesson delivery through video links, and other regular joint-school activities, including professional development of teachers. Earlier this year, the English Schools Foundation (ESF) and the EMB, in partnership with the Bond International, an Ontario based education provider in China and North America , set up a three day conference on Leadership and Sustainability, and invited Professor Michael Fullan, a renowned Canadian educationalist, as keynote speaker.  One hundred and eighty teachers and administrators then engaged in several hours of workshops with groups representing cross sections of ESF and local schools, with both groups learning from each other.  We wish to see more of these activities to the benefit of all teachers, administrators, school councils and ultimately students.


Concluding remarks


           Canada and Hong Kong have established strong ties over the years.  We share the same establishment day, i.e. 1 July.  The Canadian community is the second largest group in Hong Kong , of whom many are originally from Hong Kong , who have emigrated and returned.   As the Mainland economy continues to grow at a rapid pace, more and more expatriates see the need to learn the Chinese language and understand more the Chinese culture.  Instead of segregation, we should encourage integration by having students of different cultural backgrounds in the same school, and promote more interaction between local and international schools.  The common objective is to nurture global citizens who appreciate diversity and cultural differences, and can live and work effectively in different cultures. 


           I look to you and members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to help realize this vision.  Thank you.


Last revision date: 06 October 2005
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