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LCQ12: Enhancing the recognition of the Qualifications Framework
     Following is a question by the Hon Shiu Ka-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
     Some members of the community have indicated that the qualifications currently recognised by the Qualifications Framework (QF) and their corresponding courses have not fully met the requirements of employers and, therefore, the qualifications acquired under QF have not been widely accepted by employers. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the contents of the aforesaid courses have been designed from an academic-led direction; if so, whether the authorities will request a change in the design of the courses concerned to trade-led and industry-led, with a view to putting more emphasis on students' actual work competence after completion of the courses, and make recommendations to the relevant institutions after identifying from trade associations and employers the key skills required, so that such institutions will modify the course contents accordingly;
(2) whether it will consider improving the arrangements for students to undergo internships at workplaces, including the provision of a longer internship period and an allowance commensurate with the living standard, so that young people can have a more stable environment to experience and adapt to the relevant work, thereby attracting them to stay in the relevant industries;
(3) whether it has, by making reference to the practices of renowned countries for vocational education (e.g. Germany and the United Kingdom), strengthened business-school collaboration and industry-academia collaboration to promote the development of vocational education; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) as some members of the community have relayed that there are currently no interfaces among the various types of qualifications (i.e. academic, vocational and professional qualifications) under the framework of QF (e.g. some members of the public hold professional qualifications which are QF level 4 qualifications, but are not eligible for enrollment in bachelor's degree programmes which are pitched at QF level 5 qualifications), whether the authorities have plans to rationalise the interfaces among the relevant progression ladders;
(5) whether it has plans to enhance the recognition of QF, including whether government departments have taken the lead in accepting the qualifications recognised by QF and their corresponding courses; and
(6) given that the Education Bureau signed the "Letter of Intent on Qualifications Framework Co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong" with the Department of Education of Guangdong Province in June 2019 to jointly promote QF collaboration between Guangdong and Hong Kong, whether the authorities have plans to establish a mechanism for the inter-connection and mutual recognition of qualifications in the two places; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (HKQF) is a seven-level hierarchy covering qualifications in the academic, vocational and professional, and continuing education and training sectors, with clear and objective standards applicable to such qualifications. The primary objective of the HKQF is to promote lifelong learning with a view to continuously enhancing the quality, professionalism and competitiveness of our workforce. Our response to different parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The HKQF provides a solid foundation for articulation and progression pathways under Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET). We have set up Industry Training Advisory Committees (ITACs) for 23 industries for the implementation of the HKQF, covering industries with over 50 per cent of the workforce in Hong Kong. ITACs are responsible for drawing up the Specification of Competency Standards (SCS) of the relevant industries, setting out the skills, knowledge and competency standards required of practitioners for various job functions in the industries. The SCS facilitates the formulation of training programmes for recognition under the HKQF. As of May 2022, over 1 380 SCS-based courses had been developed by education and training providers. In addition, the development of the Vocational Qualifications Pathway (VQP) for six industries (i.e. the Automotive, Banking, Property Management, Elderly Care Service, Printing and Publishing, as well as Insurance industries) has been completed, facilitating practitioners in drawing up their learning and career progression plans, further enhancing the synergy between learning and employment. There are more than 60 VQP courses on the Qualifications Register.
     At the same time, the Government has been encouraging post-secondary education institutions to strengthen collaboration with the industries, launching and designing programmes that suit the social and economic development needs of Hong Kong.
(2) and (3) To review and consider enhancements to the promotion of VPET in Hong Kong with a more targeted approach, the Government established the Task Force on Promotion of VPET (Task Force) in April 2018. Having made reference to overseas (including Germany and the United Kingdom) experience and conducted an in-depth review of the VPET development in Hong Kong, the Task Force submitted its report to the Government in January 2020 and put forward a series of recommendations, with a view to facilitating the development of VPET programmes. The Government is proactively following up on the recommendations made by the Task Force, including fostering industry participation in VPET, and enhancing the work-based learning elements in VPET, so as to provide a more diversified and recognised VPET pathway, facilitating the parallel development of the VPET and academic education pathways.
     The Government and different organisations and institutions provide diversified workplace practice and learning experiences for students and young people. At the post-secondary level, the Government launched a Pilot Project on the Development of Applied Degree Programmes in December 2020, with the requirement that applied degree programmes, which blend theory and practice, have to be developed with strong industry involvement and the recognition of the relevant industries. The Review of Sub-degree Education, which was also launched in December 2020, also covers strengthening certain areas of the Higher Diploma qualification, including work-based learning, industry participation, and progression pathways.
     In addition, since the 2014/15 academic year (AY), the Government has implemented the Training and Support Scheme (i.e. the Earn and Learn (E&L) Scheme) through the Vocational Training Council (VTC). With the tripartite collaboration among the Government, industries and the VTC, on-the-job training and school learning are integrated in a structured manner, enabling trainees to acquire job-related knowledge and skills in the course of their studies. To further enhance the E&L Scheme, starting from the 2019/20 AY, the Government has provided the VTC with non-recurrent funding to promote and support employers to participate in workplace learning and assessment (WLA) under the Scheme, so as to conduct systematic WLA for trainees. The assessment standards are set with reference to industry and international standards for employers to assess the trainees' competencies in the workplace and provide suggestions for the trainees to improve their performance.
     At the secondary level, the Education Bureau (EDB) promotes cooperation between schools and business entities through the Business-School Partnership Programme (BSPP), with a view to enabling students to understand the operations of industrial and commercial corporations, thereby strengthening life planning. In addition, the EDB proactively promotes the engagement of industry partners in Applied Learning courses, and opening up Extension Programmes to foster workplace learning opportunities for students.
(4) The HKQF is a seven-level hierarchy in which HKQF-recognised qualifications are assigned different QF levels to reflect the depth and complexity of learning leading to such qualifications. In 2012, the Government introduced the Award Titles Scheme and QF credit under the HKQF. Award title reveals the nature, learning area and range of QF levels of a qualification, and QF credit indicates the volume of learning of the qualification. The relevant information enables training providers, institutions and learners to better understand the different qualifications recognised by the HKQF and make informed consideration in establishing and choosing their progression pathways.
(5) The policy bureaux and departments of the Government participate in and promote the development of the HKQF at different levels. For recruitment, the EDB has featured the QF language in its civil service recruitment exercises since 2016 with a view to raising public awareness of the HKQF. A number of other Government departments (e.g. the Housing Department, the Civil Engineering and Development Department, the Civil Aid Service (CAS), the Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency, and the University Grants Committee Secretariat) have also featured the QF language in their recruitment / tendering process. For internal training, several disciplinary forces (e.g. the Hong Kong Police Force, the Customs and Excise Department, the CAS, the Correctional Services Department, and the Fire Services Department) have launched training programmes that are recognised by the HKQF. We also extended a special invitation to 17 government departments and public organisations to take the lead in participating in the first cohort of QF in Action in 2020, highlighting their exemplary practices in applying the HKQF to enhance the quality of services and the professionalism of staff members. Relevant information has been incorporated into the publications which are uploaded onto the website of the HKQF for members of the public and industry stakeholders to note and make reference to the implementation of the HKQF by government departments and public organisations.
(6) We are stepping up our work in relation to the HKQF with the Mainland. Since the Letter of Intent on QF Co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong was signed between the EDB and the Department of Education of Guangdong Province in 2019, and to cope with the rapid developments of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in recent years, the EDB, the QF Secretariat, and the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) have been cooperating with the relevant authorities in the Guangdong Province to foster collaboration between the two places on qualifications framework related matters. In early 2022, the HKCAAVQ accepted an invitation from the relevant authorities in the Guangdong Province to provide a two-year consultancy service to the latter to support the development of the Guangdong Lifelong Education Qualifications Framework, including providing assistance in establishing a quality assurance mechanism, accreditation standards and procedures, piloting accreditation exercises, and developing guidelines for setting up a qualifications register, thereby laying the foundation for further liaison and cooperation between the qualifications frameworks of the two places in the long term.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:45
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