Speech by Mrs Marion LAI, JP, Permanent Secretary for Education, at
the opening ceremony of
the General Education Conference 2017: Evolution and Transformation on
15 June 2017 (Thursday)
Professor (Peter) Yuen, Professor (Chetwyn) Chan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It is my great pleasure to be here today at the opening ceremony of the General Education Conference 2017 organised by the Federation for Self-financing Tertiary Education. I would like to thank the Federation for organizing this Conference, which provides an opportunity for local and overseas experts to share their thoughts and insights for the betterment of post-secondary general education. May I also extend my warmest welcome to participants from all corners of the world.
2. The theme of the Conference is “Evolution and Transformation”. It befittingly describes Hong Kong’s education landscape over the past two decades, which have seen a number of major changes to our education system, such as the further development of sub-degree education at the turn of the new millennium, and the introduction of the New Academic Structure in 2012. Such initiatives have helped steer Hong Kong’s education system in a new direction, and diversified the provision of local post-secondary education.
3. Over the past 15 years, our post-secondary education sector has experienced phenomenal growth at both sub-degree and degree levels. The number of students admitted to full-time locally-accredited sub-degree programmes has increased from around 10 000 to over 30 000 per year, while the number of students admitted to first-degree programmes from fewer than 15 000 to more than 30 000. Through the concerted efforts of all operators, more than 76% of young people in the relevant age cohort now have access to sub-degree or degree education, almost a twofold increase as compared with the figures in 2002.
4. All these achievements could not have been possible without a vibrant self-financing post-secondary sector. By offering a wider range of articulation opportunities and choices, and providing quality, diversified and flexible pathways with multiple entry and exit points for secondary school leavers, the sector not only nurtures talent for our knowledge-based society, but also helps elevate Hong Kong’s status as a regional education hub.
5. The Federation for Self-financing Tertiary Education, in particular, performs a key role in implementing and co-ordinating major initiatives for our post-secondary education. These initiatives include the promulgation of Common Descriptors for Associate Degree and Higher Diploma Programmes; the design of a new curriculum structure for Diploma Yi Jin Programme under the New Academic Structure; the introduction of the Award Titles Scheme; and the carrying out of a pilot study on Qualifications Framework, or QF, credits and the development of operational guidelines on the use of QF credits. The Federation’s valuable contribution and constructive advice definitely deserve our appreciation and recognition.
6. The initiatives that I just mentioned are all in line with our objective to promote and facilitate lifelong learning in Hong Kong. In 2015, the Education Bureau engaged the Federation in developing a set of operational guidelines on credit accumulation and transfer, or CAT in short, under the QF. While the importance and benefits of CAT are widely recognised, it is always easier said than done when it comes to implementation. Yet, thanks to the operational guidelines, and the CAT policy and principles promulgated in 2014, we have provided better support for lifelong learning under the Hong Kong QF infrastructure.
7. Though the adoption of the CAT policy, principles and operational guidelines is merely on a voluntary basis, we fervently hope that all institutions and training providers will adhere to them when making decisions on recognition and transfer of credits. Currently, there are some 7 000 programmes on the Hong Kong Qualifications Register, and CAT arrangements are applicable to over 1 000 of them. May I call upon institutions, training providers and the business sector to forge closer collaboration in this area. Greater participation in sector-wide events such as this meaningful Conference, is instrumental in enabling smoother articulation for post-secondary students while enhancing the quality of general education programmes.
8. The Government’s commitment to promoting the CAT arrangements is best demonstrated by the magnitude of its financial support. In the past five years, we injected a total of HK$3.52 billion into the Self-financing Post-secondary Education Fund established in 2011 to, among others, subsidise worthwhile projects that aim to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. Furthermore, in 2016, we supported the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications in undertaking a project on enriching the Hong Kong Qualifications Register with a searchable central database of CAT information and articulation arrangements. This helps enhance the transparency of information and disseminate such information to institutions, learners and employers to enable informed decisions. I encourage interested parties to make good use of this database when it becomes available in 2018.
9. Through the Self-financing Post-secondary Education Fund, the Federation has secured adequate support from the Government to finance its various projects, including the one on general education and CAT, under which seminars, forums and round-table discussions are organised to explore how to raise the standards and quality of our post-secondary general education. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Federation for its untiring efforts and active involvement.
10. In addition to the projects run by the Federation, the Self-financing Post-secondary Education Fund has allocated HK$184 million to over 40 projects. These projects serve different purposes, such as enriching students’ learning experiences; developing e-learning systems and electronic platforms for resource sharing among post-secondary institutions; enhancing teaching methodologies and practices; and addressing the needs of non-Chinese speaking students and those with special educational needs. We are confident that the new initiatives and enhancement measures will benefit students and the sector as a whole in one way or another.
11. Finally, I would like to close my speech by wishing the Conference every success. I hope that every one of you will have fruitful and meaningful exchanges in these two days. Thank you.