LCQ3: Continuing Education Fund
The Financial Secretary indicated in the Budget delivered in February this year that the subsidy ceiling of the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) would be raised to $25,000 per applicant and the upper age limit would be removed, with a view to benefitting more members of the public. However, there are views pointing out that the vetting and approval procedures as well as the requirements regarding the CEF courses have not been changed for years, and the courses covered are still predominantly those conducted locally in face-to-face mode. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as some course providers have relayed that the current application procedure for registering the CEF courses is lengthy, with a course being required to be accredited by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) for listing onto the Qualifications Register before the HKCAAVQ conducts an assessment on whether the course is qualified as a CEF reimbursable course, whether the Government will streamline the relevant procedure;
(2) given that Eligible Online Courses under the CEF currently do not cover web-based distance learning courses without real-time teaching, whether the Government will consider including such courses into the Reimbursable Course List of the CEF; and
(3) whether it will consider including non-locally conducted courses (such as those organised on the Mainland) into the Reimbursable Course List of the CEF, so as to facilitate continuing education among Hong Kong people who live on the Mainland and those who intend to go north for further studies?
The Continuing Education Fund (CEF) provides subsidies to adults with aspiration to pursue continuing education and training, with a view to facilitating Hong Kong's transition to a knowledge-based economy having regard to an increasingly globalised economy. The CEF currently provides over 10 000 reimbursable courses offered by about 300 local course providers. My reply to the Member's question is as follows:
(1) Any course to be registered as a CEF course must fulfil the professional accreditation by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) or the nine self-accrediting tertiary institutions, as well as assessment by the CEF authorities. The former is to ensure fulfillment of quality requirements of the CEF courses in respect of content, qualifications of instructors, teaching methodology and assessment methods, etc.; the latter is to ensure fulfillment of the CEF requirements for course delivery, including course providers' past teaching and learning experience, the list of instructors and responsible persons and their qualifications, class arrangements, proof of fire safety and insurance in respect of the teaching premises, and the assessment or benchmark tests for successful completion of courses, etc. Complementing each other, the two sets of requirements seek to safeguard learners' best interests. On this premise, the CEF authorities launched a series of enhancement measures on April 1, 2019, streamlining the course assessment procedures and shortening the processing time. The HKCAAVQ has also offered facilitation measures to allow course providers the option to combine the applications for accreditation under the Qualifications Framework and assessment of the CEF course registration to further shorten the processing time for course registration under the CEF.
(2) In light of the advancement in technology and changes in learning mode, the CEF has formulated the operating requirements for Eligible Online Courses, with a view to providing learners with more diversified ways of continuing learning whilst ensuring effective supervision over the quality of courses and teaching. After consulting the sector, the CEF authorities have started to recognise Eligible Online Courses under the CEF since October 2021. Depending on course category, a maximum of 75 per cent of the total course hours are permitted to be conducted in online teaching and learning mode. The CEF authorities will closely monitor the implementation progress of relevant courses, and conduct reviews as appropriate.
(3) Courses conducted outside Hong Kong are currently not covered under the CEF. Non-local course providers may consider collaboration with local course providers to offer local courses and apply for registration under the CEF after registration on the Qualifications Register. They may also approach the HKCAAVQ to arrange accreditation for non-local courses to assure course quality. Based on the accreditation results, learners' needs, regulatory arrangement and other factors, the CEF authorities will explore the feasibility of expanding the CEF course scope, with a view to expanding the choices of continuing learning for local residents.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:00
Issued at HKT 12:00