6 July 2010 (Tuesday)
“Study in Hong Kong” Education Exhibition in Seoul
Speech by Mr Michael M Y Suen, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education of the HKSAR
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here in Seoul. Thank you for your wonderful hospitality.
A very warm welcome to you all to this "Study in Hong Kong" exhibition. This is the first time Hong Kong has staged such an exhibition in Korea, so it is great to see so many of you here.
I am also delighted to lead a delegation that includes a number of our top academics from Hong Kong. Representatives from no less than nine of our higher education institutions are here today. This indicates our determination to strengthen ties between Hong Kong and Korea and establish Hong Kong as a leading education hub in Asia.
In the next few minutes I will give you an overview of the education system in Hong Kong. I will also talk about why Hong Kong is an ideal place for overseas students, including Korean students, to study.
The timing of our first education exhibition in Seoul is particularly important.
For one thing, Hong Kong is emerging fast and strong from the global financial crisis. During the economic downturn, we identified education services as an area with strong economic potential for our city. To maximise this potential, the Government is focusing on ways for further opening the door for overseas students to study in Hong Kong. This includes providing more land resources for schools, upgrading facilities and attracting high quality talent.
We have also made some key progress in our strategic educational reform. Over the past decade or so, we have been upgrading our education system to meet the needs of students in our rapidly changing world. The new arrangements are tailored to give students a competitive edge in this era of regionalisation and globalisation. Today's students have to out-think and out-perform not only peers at home but also overseas. That is why we are placing greater emphasis on critical thinking, hands-on learning and international collaboration in education.
I will go into more detail about this reform process a little later.
Ladies and gentlemen, earlier I described Hong Kong as a hub for education in Asia. Our city is not alone. Some 250 cities around the world either claim to be, or aspire to be, education hubs. So what sets Hong Kong apart as a centre for education in our region? I believe Hong Kong has three fundamental strengths in this department. These strengths are: cultural diversity, opportunities and international standards.
First, cultural diversity.
Hong Kong's history has produced a rich cultural blend of East and West that forms the backbone of a vibrant learning environment. Students in Hong Kong mix with counterparts from many different countries and backgrounds in a safe and welcoming setting.
Both English and Chinese are official languages in Hong Kong. They are by now the languages spoken by the largest population in the world. Hence there are few difficulties in communicating with each other. More importantly, they underpin a rich mix of cultures and interchange that inspire the intellect.
Only last week, on July 1, we celebrated the 13th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. The success of our reunification with the motherland has been largely based on the principle of "One Country, Two Systems".
Under "One Country, Two Systems", Hong Kong has preserved its capitalist system and common law legal system as well as a free flow of information, ideas and people. We have all the soft and hard infrastructure that you would expect to find in a fast-paced, efficient and well-connected city.
At the same time, over the past 13 years, Hong Kong has become more closely integrated with the Mainland of China, which brings me to our second fundamental strength - opportunities.
As the premier gateway to China, Hong Kong and our people are in tune with our nation's needs in terms of talent, investment and creative thinking.
Some 6,600 Mainland and overseas companies, including Korean firms, have a base in Hong Kong. Many of these companies have at least one eye on the vast markets in China. These firms also provide Hong Kong with a large pool of international talent as well as opportunities for graduates looking for their ideal job.
There is great opportunity for our students to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and learn about different business cultures - particularly the way of doing business on the Mainland.
Hong Kong's third fundamental strength is international standards for education.
At the tertiary level, we have 13 degree-awarding institutions. Nine of these are funded by the Government. Together they offer a wide range of programmes to suit the interests and abilities of all students.
The most popular courses are in the fields of engineering, technology, business and management. These are closely followed by sciences.
Three of our universities are ranked in the world's top 50 in the 2009 QS World University Rankings. These schools are also rated as three of the top four universities in Asia.
Beyond our universities, we have a vibrant and extensive international school sector. More than 50 international schools provide curricula of various places including the US, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Australia and Britain. Of course, we also have the highly respected Korean International School, which attracts Korean as well as non-Korean students.
So how do we build on the three fundamental strengths of cultural diversity, opportunities and international standards?
For one thing, the Hong Kong Government has made education its top spending priority. Each year, we allocate about a quarter of our total recurrent expenditure to the education sector. This financial year, we expect spending on education to amount to HK$52.2 billion or about eight trillion Korean won.
Promoting language proficiency, e-learning and small-class teaching are among our main initiatives to improve the quality of learning. To enhance the cultural diversity of our education system, the Government is actively encouraging more students from the Mainland and overseas to study in Hong Kong.
We have doubled the quota for non-local students at our universities from 10% to 20%. We have also launched a government scholarship scheme to recognise the achievements of outstanding students.
And last year, we kicked off a new PhD Fellowship Scheme to attract students from all over the world to pursue PhD studies in Hong Kong.
Selected students will be awarded HK$20,000 per month, or around three million Korean won, plus other research-related allowances. Two students from Korea have been selected for admission to PhD programmes under the scheme in the 2010/11 academic year. I encourage more students from Korea to apply for the scheme.
We have also relaxed our immigration and employment restrictions on foreign students. Non-local students can now take up part-time work, internships and summer jobs. This will enable them to integrate better into the community. After graduating, they can remain in Hong Kong without restriction for up to one year. That should be plenty of time for them to find the right job if they decide to stay in Hong Kong.
From a small base, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of Korean students taking up courses in Hong Kong. In the current academic year, more than 80 (83) Korean students have enrolled in Hong Kong universities. The previous year only around 30 (33) Korean students enrolled. There is still plenty of room for more.
Finally, a few more details about our education reform that I mentioned earlier. This will help to give you a fuller understanding of the direction our education system is headed.
Our reform process is critical to Hong Kong's future success as a knowledge-based economy.
At the start of this academic year, we introduced the new 3-3-4 academic structure. This refers to three years of junior secondary and three years of senior secondary education followed by four years at undergraduate level. Compared with our old system, students will have an extra year at undergraduate level to enrich their learning experiences and international exchange.
Our aim is to enable students to develop into balanced individuals with a broad knowledge base, and an aptitude for life-long learning to stretch individual potential and diverse talents. We believe this will better prepare young people to venture into new opportunities and live up to challenges in this modern world, and to provide the human capital necessary for diversification in society.
Under the new senior secondary structure, all students follow a broad and balanced curriculum, including four core subjects : Chinese language, English language, mathematics and liberal studies.
As well as strengthening language proficiency and mathematics standards, students will be able to better explore contemporary issues and positive citizenship in liberal studies, and to choose electives to suit their own interests and potentials.
I am confident this will provide a strong foundation for all our students to succeed in ways that suit them.
Also, one exam will replace the current two exams for secondary school leavers. This new exam, the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, or HKDSE, which will be held in 2012, is internationally benchmarked. The HKDSE has already gained international recognition from agencies in overseas jurisdictions such as Britain and Australia.
A four-year undergraduate programme will give universities more time and space to provide multi-disciplinary learning experiences. Undergraduates are trained to address issues with sharpened analytical and problem-solving skills rather than merely attaining knowledge in their own fields.
By welcoming more overseas students to Hong Kong, we will be able to provide an even more culturally diverse learning environment for developing intercultural competencies which are much sought after by higher education in different countries.
Our education reforms will keep Hong Kong at the forefront of global trends in terms of nurturing students for success in our more globalised and inter-connected economic environment.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you today and for your interest in Hong Kong's education system. I hope you enjoy the rest of this "Study in Hong Kong" exhibition. Please do come and visit Hong Kong to see for yourselves the exciting opportunities for students in our city.