18 April 2011 (Monday)
Nurturing Talents in a Globalised World – Government’s Role
Speech by Mr Michael M Y Suen, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be here in Hanoi. I am delighted to meet such a distinguished group of educators and leaders in Vietnam.
This is the first time I am here in Vietnam in the capacity of the Secretary for Education. I hope I will have time to take a look at this beautiful city. This is also the first and the largest delegation from the Hong Kong education sector visiting the country. Apart from my colleagues from the government, we also have with us here the senior representatives of the eight higher education institutions from Hong Kong. Our mission is clear – to foster closer ties with Vietnam on education collaboration.
Hong Kong and Vietnam have many things in common. We are both situated in Asia – the growth engine of the world. After the financial tsunami in 2008, we witness a gradual shift of global economic focus from the West to the East. Asia has emerged politically and economically and Vietnam also registered rapid economic growth in the past years. Today, Hong Kong economy has fully recovered. The employment situation has shown continuous improvement, and our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has exceeded the peak before the financial tsunami. The sustained rapid economic growth of Mainland China has brought in fresh opportunities for Hong Kong. The accelerating trade and economic integration in Asia also presents enormous opportunities for Asian economies including Hong Kong and Vietnam.
Secondly, we share a strong commitment to education. In Hong Kong, education is the largest recurrent expenditure item. For every five dollars that our Government spends, more than one dollar goes to education. Vietnam also attaches a lot of importance to education and training. With this shared vision, Hong Kong and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Education Cooperation in 2009. This morning, I had a meeting with the Vice Minister of Education and Training, and we both agree that Hong Kong and Vietnam can foster closer collaboration in the education front. I am sure that our closer co-operation will achieve a win-win situation for both sides.
That brings me to the topic of today’s luncheon – Nurturing Talents in a Globalised World.
We live in an interconnected world. Financial tsunami in 2008 hit every corner of the globe. More recently, Japan’s catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis are affecting the region and the whole world. We witness the emergence of many issues that call for global solutions. We must join our hands and rise to the challenges ahead in this globalised era.
With the emergence of knowledge-based economy, the ability to nurture and attract talents is the single most important success factor. In Hong Kong, education is Government’s top priority. We provide 12 years of free education. We also provide our school leavers with multiple pathways that meet their interest and ability. We offer financial assistance to those in need to ensure that no student will be denied access to tertiary education due to a lack of financial means. We also encourage our people to pursue lifelong learning.
At the system level, we have launched a ground-breaking education reform so as to ensure that our education structure and curriculum can stand the test of time. Our vision is to develop all our students into balanced individuals with a global outlook, capable of contributing in meaningful ways to society. We want to equip our youngsters with a broad knowledge base, an aptitude for life-long learning and the readiness to venture into new frontiers of knowledge whenever necessary. We accord priority to the training of creativity, innovation and analytical power of our students.
We moved away from our old system of five-year secondary education, two-year matriculation and three-year undergraduate studies and started a new 3-3-4 academic system. Under the new system, we provide three years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education, followed by a four-year undergraduate curriculum. Our new academic system will align Hong Kong with a number of important international systems including those of USA and Mainland China, and provide smoother articulation pathways.
Instead of having two public examinations, equivalent to the “O Levels” and “A Levels” 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.
The HKDSE is internationally benchmarked and recognised. In particular, the HKDSE has been included in the United Kingdom (UK)’s Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) Tariff system, which can provide a useful reference for application for various programmes in UK universities. It will also give a better comparison between HKDSE and other overseas qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), and facilitate the next phase of the benchmarking exercise with more international agencies and other countries like Canada and the USA.
Our universities are also re-engineering their undergraduate programmes with the addition of one more year under the new system. Our universities are taking this opportunity of having an additional undergraduate year to rethink their undergraduate strategies and revamp their curricula accordingly. The programme is expected to give universities more time and space to provide a broader and more diversified learning experience. This will widen students’ horizons and expose them to both specialised and broad knowledge for a more balanced whole-person development. I am confident that our universities will make use of this golden opportunity to further improve their quality of education.
No doubt Hong Kong will benefit in terms of upgraded human resources through education reform. And it is also beneficial to the whole region. Through the reform, we nurture high quality talents.
Regional Education Hub
Hong Kong aspires to be a regional education hub. It is our vision not only to attract and nurture talent for Hong Kong, but also for Asia as a whole. We want to prepare a strong cadre of people who can flourish in this era of regionalisation and globalisation.
Hong Kong is at the gateway of the Mainland China, the world’s fastest growing economy. Hong Kong has acute understanding of the business acumen on the Mainland as well as close social and cultural ties with our neighbouring provinces. You can imagine how well would students benefit from studying in Hong Kong, a metropolitan city which is closely connected with China plus a good blend of eastern and western cultures.
Hong Kong is a safe, vibrant and welcoming place for overseas people to live, work and study. The English and Chinese speaking environment of Hong Kong has also enabled non-local students to adapt easily to our academic environment, as well as our city life. In addition, we have free flow of information, ideas and people. We believe that a free environment is an absolute advantage to the cultivation of creative and innovative talents.
Our institutions have been doing a great job in upholding and flourishing their standards and qualities. Three of our universities were ranked among the top 50 universities in the world by the QS World University Rankings in 2010. We also hosted the world’s number one EMBA programme in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
But we want to be even better. We want our campuses to be more internationalised.
One of the primary tasks that the Government is working with our institutions is to attract more non-local students to come to Hong Kong. To this end, we have established government scholarships and relaxed our immigration and employment restrictions for non-local students.
Another important initiative is to encourage more collaboration on education and research among higher education institutions. We wish, through collaborating with institutions from outside Hong Kong, the perspective and scope of our institutions can be widened; our research students would also be better connected with the larger world.
Furthermore, we also encourage non-local institutions to offer non-local programmes in Hong Kong leading to overseas qualifications. For example, the Savannah College of Art and Design of US is offering 14 programmes in arts and design in Hong Kong.
We are currently inviting expression of interest from local and non-local institutions on a piece of land in Hong Kong which can provide over 100 000 square metres in gross floor area for some 8 000 self-financing degree places.
In pursuing diversification at the sector level, we encourage public and private universities. We encourage individual institutions to identify and develop their “niche areas”, and develop their brand names.
Finally, in order to attract top notch people to stay in Hong Kong, we have a vibrant international school sector. There are about 50 international schools in Hong Kong. Together, they provide some 32 000 places for primary and secondary students. Harrow International School, which has nurtured many prime ministers and leaders in UK, will open its new campus in Hong Kong in 2012.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that our education reforms, open door policies for non-local students and the metropolitan lifestyle will make us an even better place for education development. We wish institutions heads sitting here today with us could seriously consider collaborate with our institutions. Professor Albert Chan of the Hong Kong Baptist University will now tell you more about what our institutions are doing to nurture talents in a globalised world.
Thank you very much.