18 May 2010 (Tuesday)
Business Luncheon in Malaysia – “Nurturing Talents for Asia”
Speech by Mr Michael M Y SUEN, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Dato’ Yeoh, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to join you here today. My thanks go to the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute for its warm hospitality of organizing this luncheon.
Today, I have chosen a topic dear to my heart – “Nurturing Talents for Asia”. Indeed, I believe it is also a subject that is of interest to you, as a businessman or professional facing keen global competition.
The financial tsunami that happened in 2008 has led to a new scene on the economic platform. Most people now believe that Asia will spearhead the efforts for global economic recovery. There are tremendous opportunities in the region for trades, businesses and professions. Governments all around are keen to develop quality human capital to reap the opportunities.
Closer international and regional collaborations are called for to respond to the changes. For this, we do not only mean economic and financial aspects, but also other areas like education, culture, environmental protection and so on. I do see promising aspects for stronger collaboration between Malaysia and Hong Kong on the education front. This is indeed a key focus of my visit here.
In the coming ten minutes or so, I would like to share with you what Hong Kong is doing to nurture talents for Hong Kong and may I add, for the entire Asia, and how I think stronger cooperation between Hong Kong and Malaysia will be beneficial to both places.
Commitment to education
In Hong Kong, people are our greatest asset. Unlike Malaysia which is blessed with rich natural resources, we are not. In an externally-oriented economy like Hong Kong, it is the vitality, entrepreneurship and hard work of our people that keep us competitive in an increasingly globalised world.
Education has all along been the single largest investment of our society. Each year we allocate about a quarter of total government spending to education. This makes me the biggest spender within the Government, quite an enviable position for many of my fellow ministers.
As Hong Kong becomes a knowledge-based economy and develops our high value-added services, we need to nurture and attract talents to sustain our economic and social development. We have been implementing a series of changes to our education system in the past decade to ensure our next generation is equipped with the skills to rise to the challenges. A notable example is the implementation of a new academic structure starting from last September. Our vision is two-fold: to offer a learning journey for all our youngsters to succeed in the globalised world and to enhance our human capital.
The reform marks a significant change in the structure and curriculum of our education system. In terms of structure, we provide 12 years of free education, including six years of primary education, six years of secondary education, followed by a four-year undergraduate curriculum. Instead of having two public examinations, equivalent to the “O Level” and “A Level” of GCE examinations in the United Kingdom, we will have one public examination after Year 12, leading to the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (or HKDSE, in short) starting from the year 2012.
In terms of curriculum, all students study a broad and balanced senior secondary curriculum, including four core subjects, namely, Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies. It is our strong commitment to nurture our students to become proficient in English and Chinese, have a good analytical mind, and able to think creatively, inquisitively and critically from different perspectives. Most important of all, we strive to equip our young people with the requisite skills and manner to pursue lifelong learning so that they can master any new developments that may emerge and respond to opportunities as and when they arise.
Our new senior secondary curriculum and the HKDSE are internationally benchmarked and recognised. Indeed, we have been receiving very encouraging responses from the academic communities in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia that our new curriculum will better prepare our students for university education and other pathways in the knowledge-based economy.
Our universities are also taking the opportunity of having another undergraduate year to revamp their curriculum. For example, general education element will be built into the programmes to enable students to take a wider variety of subjects outside their major. Some of our university representatives who are present here today can tell you how much work they have put in to ensure our students benefit the most from the change.
While there is no doubt that Hong Kong will benefit in terms of the upgraded human resources, our education reform will also help nurture talents for Asia and the world at large, as it is so common for our young people to study and work abroad nowadays.
Collaboration between Hong Kong and Malaysia
I have provided you with a brief update on the latest development in our education system. I will now talk about what we are doing to develop Hong Kong into a regional education hub and my vision for stronger ties between Hong Kong and Malaysia.
I understand that Malaysia started opening its door to international students a few years ago and it has now a healthy pool of international students, both in the public and private sectors. I am sure that Malaysia’s experience will be of great relevance to us. I have the opportunity of meeting your Minster of Education and Minister of Higher Education after lunch, and I look forward to the useful exchanges with them.
Last September, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region outlined Hong Kong’s plan to develop education services as one of the six economic areas in which our city has a clear advantage. We plan to further internationalise and diversify our education sector.
As Asia’s World City, Hong Kong does have much to offer, including excellent geographical location, unique position in blending Chinese and Western cultures and world-class universities. We are the gateway to Mainland China, the fastest growing economy in the world. We are also the home for thousands of offices of multi-national companies. All these provide tremendous opportunity for students who pursue their studies in Hong Kong.
Our institutions are also world-renowned. Three of our universities were ranked top five in the QS Asian University rankings released last week. Their world rankings were also encouraging – they were ranked top 50 by the Times Higher Education Supplement in 2009. We also host the world’s number one EMBA programme in 2007 and 2009. We ensure students in Hong Kong receive quality education.
With our English-speaking and cosmopolitan environment, we have attracted faculty members from around the world who have brought with them a wealth of international experience and network. Students from different parts of the world will find it easy to adapt to our academic environment. To further attract non-local students to come to Hong Kong to study, we have established government scholarships and relaxed our immigration and employment restrictions for non-local students.
Currently, about 13% of the students in our publicly-funded programmes are from places outside Hong Kong. More than 140 students came from Malaysia. Another 3,000 students come to Hong Kong every year on exchange. Last year, around 20 students participated in the exchange programmes between Hong Kong and Malaysia. I encourage more students from Malaysia to join these programmes. I also welcome stronger collaboration and exchanges amongst the higher education institutions in the two places.
On “internationalization”, it would be an obvious omission if I do not mention our vibrant international school sector. More than 50 international schools operate in the city offering a wide range of curricula of different countries. Many schools also offer International Baccalaureate programmes. Together they provide some 35 000 places for primary and secondary students. To meet additional demand, we have identified four new sites for the expansion of existing schools and the building of new ones.
Let me move on to our work on “diversification”. Currently, taking into account places offered by the publicly-funded sector and the self-financing sector, around 27% of our youngsters between the ages of 17 to 20 have access to the tertiary education. We are aware of the call from the community that our young people should be provided with more higher education opportunities. However, as education is already the biggest spending of our society, we consider it more sustainable to promote further growth of the tertiary education sector at the self-financing end rather than the publicly-funded side.
Seeing the experiences in some other economies, we believe there is tremendous scope for the self-financing sector to complement the public sector in Hong Kong. We have put in place a number of facilitating measures in this regard. As land is the scarcest resources of Hong Kong, we provide land for institutions to build new or expand their campuses. Recently, we have reserved six pieces of land for the purpose, including one piece which can provide over 100,000 m 2 in gross floor area for some 8 000 self-financing degree places. Also, start-up loans for the building works are made available. As quality assurance is our prime concern, we provide funding support to our institutions to help them enhance the quality of teaching and learning of their programmes.
In Hong Kong, we also have a number of non-local higher education programmes. These are offered by non-local institutions which award non-local qualifications. For example, the University of Hong Kong has joined the London School of Business and Columbia University to offer an MBA programme. I understand that Malaysia has good experience in setting up non-local institutions. Hong Kong can, for sure, learn from your experience.
Ladies and gentlemen, we position Hong Kong as a place of opportunity for foreign firms, business people and professionals as well as their families. As we enhance Hong Kong’s status as an Asia’s world city, we see a strong need to provide quality education to our own young people, as well as those coming from other places. In turn, we nurture a quality pool of talent not only for Hong Kong but also for our trading partners, especially those in the region.
I thank you once again for your hospitality and I welcome you all to visit Hong Kong in the near future.