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LegCo Secretariat releases Research Brief on "Continuing education in Hong Kong"
The following is issued on behalf of the Legislative Council Secretariat:

     The Legislative Council Secretariat (the Secretariat) today (November 17) released a Research Brief on "Continuing education in Hong Kong".

     Apart from the shift in economic structure towards knowledge-based activities which has resulted in an increased demand for high-skilled and better educated workers, recent developments in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are ushering in a new age of automation. As such, workers are required to continually enhance and develop their technical and soft skills to cope with the shift in skills requirements.

     However, the continuing education participation rate in Hong Kong was relatively low in recent years, and the number of claims for reimbursement from the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) has been on the decline since Fiscal Year 2006. These have aroused the concerns over insufficiency of CEF and the narrow scope of CEF registered courses.

     CEF currently offers each applicant a lifetime maximum subsidy of HK$10,000 which has been criticised for being insufficient to people aiming to pursue higher education qualifications. The subsidy ceiling has remained unchanged since the inception of CEF in 2002. It has not kept up with the increase in the cost of study which rose by 19.8 per cent during 2002 to 2016.

     On course variety, there are suggestions to include Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in CEF's registered course list, as MOOCs make continuing education more flexible and accessible than before. MOOCs' distinctive characteristics of 24-hour access to course materials and self-paced learning should be of particular relevance to Hong Kong, where long working hours warrant a more flexible learning environment for lifelong learners.

     Many governments around the world have introduced programmes in their quest to produce lifelong learners who are equipped to face the challenges in today's fast changing workplaces. 

     Through its nationwide movement, SkillsFuture, Singapore is a successful example of incentivising firms and individuals to invest in continuing education. The Singapore government provides regular top-ups to every Singapore citizen which can be used to pay for a wide range of approved skills-related courses including MOOCs. Generous government subsidies ranging from 50 per cent to 95 per cent of the course fee are provided for self-sponsoring and employer-sponsoring courses.  Employers are also entitled to receive Absentee Payroll funding ranging from 80 per cent to 95 per cent of an employee's basic hourly salary.

     This is the first issue of the Research Brief for 2017-2018 prepared by the Secretariat's Research Office of the Information Services Division with a view to enhancing information support for Members. It is a concise summary aiming at explaining a subject matter which may be of interest to Members and the general public.

     The Research Brief is now available on the Legislative Council Website at www.legco.gov.hk/research-publications/english/1718rb01-continuing-education-in-hong-kong-20171117-e.pdf.
Ends/Friday, November 17, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:15
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