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Speech at HKIAAT's Rebranding Launch Ceremony cum Annual Dinner - "Fly to a New Dimension"

Speech by Mrs Fanny Law, GBS, JP

Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower

at HKIAAT’s Rebranding Launch Ceremony cum Annual Dinner

 – “Fly to a New Dimension”

                                          on Friday, 31.3.2006                                    


Mr Oxley, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


         I am privileged to be invited to join you on this happy occasion to launch the new logo and name of the Hong Kong Institute of Accredited Accounting Technicians.  The rebranding signifies the status of the accounting technician as a professional qualification in the progression pathway for a career in accounting.


         I congratulate the Board members on their unswerving efforts over the years in establishing and gaining recognition of the Accounting Technician Examination and the Professional Bridging Examination among tertiary institutions, government departments and businesses in Hong Kong and overseas, and providing a clear articulation pathway for those who wish to pursue a career in accounting.


        Indeed, there is a huge demand for certified accountants and supporting accounting technicians both in Hong Kong and the Mainland, and many young people are attracted to the career prospects.  This evening, we also celebrate the achievements of students who have earned scholarships and awards with their outstanding academic performance, and in the Institute’s Accounting Case Competition.  I extend to all of them my warm congratulations.


Setting the scene


        Accountants, I presume, like numbers, or they would not have survived being buried in numbers day in and day out.  Hence, I would like to share with you some numbers that underpin the Government’s policies on education and manpower.


·           32% of our workforce had an educational attainment at or below junior secondary level, only 29% had received tertiary education – this profile can hardly support our aspiration to develop a knowledge economy;

·           about 240,000 Hong Kong residents, representing 7% of the total workforce, regularly work in the Mainland, of whom 42% have tertiary education – it is therefore wishful thinking to believe that we could export low-skilled workers to the Mainland;

·           each year, about 25,000 secondary school leavers graduate without 5 passes in the HKCEE – we would squander many talents if our education system continued to adopt an academic orientation and measure success by academic results only;

·           the median age of the HK population is projected to be 49 by 2033, compared to 38 in 2003, and the dependency ratio will increase correspondingly from 378 to 579 – to compensate for this, we must nurture knowledge workers with higher earning powers;

·         a manpower projection study in 2003 showed a significant surplus of about 133,000 workers with lower secondary education or below, and a shortfall of about 102,000 workers with post-secondary and higher education – in other words, there is a serious mismatch of human capital with the demands of the economy. 



Addressing the problems


        We do face a challenge and must act strategically and quickly to redress the mismatch.  In the short-term, we have to resort to attracting talents and professionals from the Mainland and overseas.  We also encourage tertiary institutions to expand the recruitment of non-local students to degree and sub-degree programmes.  Since 2001, we have allowed Mainland students to work in Hong Kong upon graduation.  As at March 2005, the Immigration Department has approved over 400 employment applications.


        As medium-term measures, we introduced a number of schemes to provide learning opportunities for adult workers, including the $400 million Skills Upgrading Scheme, the $5 billion Continuing Education Fund, and the Project Yi Jin, which also accepts adults over the age of 21, and the successful completion of which is equivalent to having five passes in the HKCEE. We also expanded the participation of post-secondary education to 66% of the relevant age groups. 


        The education reform is the ultimate solution to nurturing a new generation of knowledge workers who are self-directed lifelong learners.  The twin objectives of the education reform are to motivate students to learn, and help them learn how to learn.  The ultimate goal is to provide for whole-person development so that our students will:


Ø       be proficient in the use of English, Chinese and Putonghua;

Ø       have a broad knowledge base and good interpersonal skills;

Ø       be critical thinkers and lifelong learners;

Ø       lead a healthy lifestyle; and

Ø       acquire learning experiences in the moral, physical and aesthetic     areas, as well as work-related experiences.


These goals are carefully matched to meet workplace expectations.


        Beginning in September 2009, we will embark upon a new three-year senior secondary structure followed by a broad set of post-school pathways combining work, training and further studies.  The nominal undergraduate programme will be extended from 3 to 4 years.  All senior secondary students take four core subjects, namely, Chinese, English, Mathematics and Liberal Studies.


        In addition, students may choose 2 to 3 elective subjects  from a broad range of courses, including career-oriented studies.  There will also be other structured learning experiences in the arts, physical education, moral and civic education and exposure to the world of work. 


        Students learn differently; some learn best by understanding theory and then applying it in practice, many others learn best by starting from application and moving from practical experiences to understanding theory.  As the saying goes, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand”.


        We have seen a rapid growth in the number of schools and students participating in the Career-oriented Curriculum (COC) courses over the past three years.  We are particularly pleased to offer the Institute’s course on Practical and Computerised Accounting for Small and Medium Enterprises in the 2005/06 school year. This course has  attracted about 190 students.


Lifelong Learning: the Qualifications Framework


         Let me now turn to lifelong learning.  In a time of drastic change, it is the lifelong learners who will inherit the future.  To turn Hong Kong into a lifelong learning society, our education and qualification systems must be flexible with multiple progression pathways and linkages between academic and vocational qualifications.  Accordingly, we have developed a 7-level Qualifications Framework (QF), which orders and supports academic, vocational and continuing education qualifications. 


         So far, 9 industries including Printing & Publishing, Watch & Clock, Chinese Catering, Hairdressing, Property Management, Electrical & Mechanical Services, Jewellery, Information & Communications Technology, and Automotive have participated in drawing up the competencies expected of graduates at each level of the QF in respect of their industries. These industries are The Beauty industry and the Logistics industry will form join next month.


            Hong Kong is a major international financial centre. As one of the four main pillars of the Hong Kong economy, the financial services alone contributed to over 12% of our GDP in 2004.  We are pleased that the financial services sector has accepted our invitation to adopt the QF.  As a start, the Banking industry is in the process of forming an Industry Training Advisory Committee.  We shall continue to discuss with Insurance and other industries of the financial services sector the possibility of using the tools provided by the QF in their areas.  We would certainly like to explore the feasibility of forming an Accountancy Industry Training Advisory Committee in the near future.


             We appreciate that your Institute has long established a well structured learning pathway to encourage members to seek continuing advancement. The AAT qualification provides multiple pathways to academic and higher accounting professional qualifications and the Professional Bridging Examination (PBE) offers advanced standing for local or overseas bachelor degrees.


              In addition, the Reciprocal Membership Agreement (RMA) with the Association of Accounting Technicians of United Kingdom (UKAAT), signed in February, further enhances the international standing of the AAT qualifications.


Together we stand


              Eight years ago, when I first joined the field of education, I could not imagine myself working hand in hand with the business community and professional organizations in nurturing our younger generation.  Today, cross sector collaboration is the key to the success.


               I am most grateful to the Hong Kong Institute of Accredited Accounting Technicians for your support to education and to the development of our human capital.  People say “education is learning what you didn’t know you didn’t know” and an accountant is “someone who solves a problem you did not know you had in a way you don’t understand”.  So educators and accountants are natural partners, and I look forward to our continuing partnership to nurture a new generation of lifelong learners.  Thank you.         

Last revision date: 31 March 2006
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