The following is the translation of a speech by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Mrs Fanny Law, at a press conference today (October 12) on the programme area of the Education and Manpower Bureau contained in the Policy Address:
In delivering his Policy Address entitled 'Building on our Strengths and Investing in our Future' on Wednesday, the Chief Executive stressed that we must quicken our pace in raising the educational level and quality of our people in a bid to maintain our competitive edge and prepare Hong Kong for the economic restructuring. To this end, the Chief Executive decided to invest heavily in education and manpower training and made a firm, clear and long-term financial commitment to improve the quality of education.
Following globalisation of the economy, competition for talents is becoming worldwide. Economic development and the availability of talents are interactively and dynamically related. The more robust and the more replete with development potential a place is, the more it is able to attract talents. The more abundant the supply of quality talents is, the more attractive a place will be to investors. In order to maintain our competitive edge in the IT age, Hong Kong needs people that are innovative, adaptable and with high education attainment and ability for self-learning. This is what we aim at achieving through education and manpower training.
Today, I will talk about the future development of education and manpower training, and also our priorities in the coming year.
Developing Diverse Talents
Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city rich in diversity. Sustaining this vitality necessitates a quality education system capable of nurturing diverse talents.
We shall continue to enhance diversity and flexibility in the school system through the development of private independent schools (PIS) and direct subsidy scheme schools (DSS). Due to their autonomy in manpower establishment and curriculum design, such schools are well placed to tailor teaching and learning to students' needs. By enriching the school system, we are also providing more choice to parents and teachers. We also encourage the establishment of senior secondary schools and colleges with characteristics. Examples are a music school and a proposed school of arts, media and design. Our objective is to facilitate the nurturing of students who are both specialised and have a diversified knowledge base.
As for individuals, we will step up our effort to nurture gifted students. We will provide a more diversified senior secondary curriculum; promote leadership training for youth; and encourage students to travel more widely both to the Mainland and overseas, so as to broaden their horizon.
Upgrading the Quality of Basic Education
The top priority of the SAR Government is to improve basic education. Over the past four years, we have achieved encouraging results in expanding education opportunities, enhancing teachers' professional development, improving teaching and learning facilities, developing a new learning culture as well as a more diversified education system. Details are set out in the leaflet on "Quality Education".
In the coming year, our key tasks will focus on seven areas: to improve language teaching, to enhance student guidance and counselling, to alleviate the workload of teachers, to promote teachers' professional development, to improve early childhood education, to develop a more diversified education system, and to expand post-secondary education opportunities. Details are set out in the leaflet on "Quality Education".
Over the past two days, I have briefed school councils, teachers' associations, parent-teacher associations, school sponsors as well as representatives of tertiary institutions on the contents of the Policy Address. There is also extensive media coverage on this. I am not going to repeat what have been said but I shall be glad to answer any questions that you may wish to ask.
There are three messages in this year's Policy Address which deserve attention and reflection:
(1) The Chief Executive sees education as an investment in the future of Hong Kong and has made long-term financial commitment straddling the financial years. This is a far-sighted decision. Against the backdrop of an economic downturn and retrenchments in many sectors, it is incumbent on us to ensure that valuable resources are well spent to achieve results.
(2) The success or otherwise of our education affects the overall interests of Hong Kong. Hence, the entire community should contribute towards education, including the Government, school sponsoring bodies, schools, teachers, parents, and various sectors such as health and welfare, cultural and arts, sports and business. Education is also an important investment in the future of Hong Kong. Therefore, we hope the community would pool resources to promote education.
(3) Faced with the development of a knowledge economy, we need to promote lifelong education and upgrade the overall educational attainment of Hong Kong people. We therefore need to build a flexible education system and a qualifications framework. Multi-layers and multi-channeled learning opportunities will be provided to facilitate continuing education and personal development.
Encouraging Continuing Education
In order to promote life-long learning in the community, the Chief Executive announced that $5 billion have been earmarked to subsidize adults wishing to pursue continuing education. We welcome suggestions from members of the public on how the provision can be most gainfully used to help those with the greatest need. Issues we have to deal with include the target recipients, the mode and ceiling of subsidy, quality assurance, monitoring framework and the interface with existing training programmes. The Education and Manpower Bureau will consult relevant bodies and the public on those issues. We aim to launch the new scheme in the next financial year.
We are also conducting an overall review of the organisational set-up of our vocational education and training as well as mode of delivery. Our goal is to strengthen cooperation among the government, employers, employees and training providers with a view to more systematically and efficiently assessing manpower needs, mapping out training requirements and drawing up priorities on a regular basis. We aim to develop a qualifications framework, and a system of accreditation and quality assurance. We also encourage non-profit making and private enterprises to participate in vocational training. The Education and Manpower Bureau will consult the key stakeholders, including the Vocational Training Council, Employee Retraining Board, major employer groups, social service agencies and representatives of workers' unions, on the specific arrangements shortly.
Our Way Forward
Following China's accession to the WTO, Hong Kong's future economic development must move towards high value-added activities. We must collaborate with the Pearl River Delta Region by complementing our comparative advantages to create a "win-win" situation. In formulating our employment and training policies, we shall focus on three areas of needs.
First, there is a need to develop new areas or industries with potentials for growth such as logistics management, tourism and entertainment industries, personal services (e.g. care workers, masseurs), financial services, information technology and telecommunications services etc. These industries have the capacity to create job opportunities but timely manpower training must be provided to tie in with the development of these industries. Subject to the requirements of individual industries, training may cover many levels, from skills training to university education.
Secondly, there is a need to ensure that in-service workers keep abreast of time and would not be made redundant. To this end, appropriate and timely training must be provided to equip in-service workers with new knowledge and skills to meet changing job requirements. The Skills Upgrading Scheme announced by the Chief Executive in last year's Policy Address is intended to serve this purpose.
Thirdly, there is a need to provide re-training for the unemployed to help them re-enter the workforce. It is important for those unemployed to have a clear picture of the labour market situation so that they can assess their personal abilities and potentials and set reasonable job expectations.
In a fast-changing social environment, vocational training must not be limited to the provision of knowledge and skills training. More importantly, we must cultivate a positive attitude of continuous self-improvement and strengthen generic skills (including language, information technology, communication and introspection skills) to equip trainees with the ability to adapt to social changes.
In the face of rising unemployment rate, the Government adopts a multi-faceted approach to promote employment:
(1) create short-term employment opportunities through increase in public expenditure and accelerating infrastructural projects;
(2) create employment opportunities for workers with low levels of education and skills. We will step up measures to promote a three-shift system for security guards, provide one-stop job matching services for domestic helpers, encourage homes for the aged to employ local care workers and help the self-employed to start business. Despite the economic downturn, there are many jobs which are somewhat obnoxious in nature and which people of Hong Kong are unwilling to take up. These vacancies will be lost to imported workers.
(3) Strengthen employment services to cater for the needs of job-seekers of different educational attainment and background. The LD will expand the Job Matching Programme to provide one-stop counselling and job referral services for middle ranking job seekers. It will also enhance the computerised job placement services with the setting up of self-help digital job centres; continue with the "Re-employment Pilot Programme for the Middle-aged" and extend flexibly the duration of workplace attachment training under the Youth Pre-employment Training Programme.
Hong Kong is facing an acute economic challenge, so is the rest of the world. Hong Kong still has many advantages, and much room for development. We have to have confidence in ourselves. If we can all work together with composure and for a common purpose, we will get out of the economic doldrums before long. Raising the quality of our people and building a lifelong learning society are the key.
End/Friday, October 12, 2001