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President, first of all, I would like to thank Dr CHIANG Lai-wan and five members who have proposed amendments for their concerns about vocational education in Hong Kong. I always believe that vocational education is an indispensible part of Hong Kong’s education system. Hong Kong’s outstanding industrial achievements in the past relied on the contributions made by many local graduates of vocational education. The advanced countries in Europe and the United States, as well as Mainland China attach great importance to vocational education. Vocational education not only helps young people establish a foundation for their careers, but also provides opportunities for them to pursue further studies, thereby nurturing the local talents needed for economic development. Regrettably, society in general attaches more importance to traditional academic education and regards vocational education as second-class education. To strengthen vocational education and make it more attractive, we have to draw the public’s attention to the value and importance of vocational education.
I had served as the Chairman of Hong Kong Vocational Training Council (VTC) for many years. Over the past 30 years, I had put in tremendous efforts in vocational education and have personally witnessed and experienced the transformation of the local vocational education. I also had first-hand experience of the changing perceptions of students towards vocational education. When I was the Chairman of the VTC, on the day the examination result was released and enrolment started, I visited various vocational institutions and I saw many young people in low spirits and their parents who accompanied them for enrolment also looked very worried. However, at the annual graduation ceremony, the graduates have a totally different mood. They are happy and confident, ready to face another stage of their lives. These young people managed to find their own direction of development in the courses they attend, and have turned their interests into careers. They have grown up. I can truly tell you all that our current vocational education provides valuable, diversified and various progression pathways for the young generation. They choose to enrol in the VTC not because they have no other choices; on the contrary they have a lot of choices.
Vocational education and training has experienced significant changes over the past 10 years, providing not only hands-on training for the academically weak students, but also a diversity of courses, so that young people can consider their future development according to their own ideals, levels, abilities and interests and choose the subjects they want to study. They can first enrol in the Diploma of Vocational Education programme offered by the Youth College, and then proceed to the Advanced Diploma offered by the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, and the degree courses offered by the Technological and Higher Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) and School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE).
The displines of studies include applied science, hotel hospitality, design, engineering, information technology, business administration, as well as social services for children and elderly. The curriculum design follows closely the development of society and graduates can enrol in courses offered by THEi as well as in the bridging degree courses jointly offered by SHAPE with local and nine overseas universities. These degree programmes are mostly accredited by Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications. Full-time students only need 12 to 18 months to get a bachelor’s degree, even faster than studying in traditional universities. In 2014, there were 13 158 Higher Diploma graduates, 34% of them choose to pursue further studies, among them, about 2 400 students enrolled in the bridging programmes jointly offered by overseas universities. The curriculum design has provided a clear progression pathway for young people.
Internship helps young people accumulate experience in the workplace, enabling them to adapt quicker and easier in their jobs after graduation. Therefore, I very much agree that the business community and the Government should speed up the work in this regard. I suggest further co-operation among the business sector, the Government and vocational training institutions to provide more internship positions in various trades and industries, such as e-commerce. The education authorities can also follow the example of Singapore by providing subsidizes to enterprises to attract their participation.
President, we often encourage young people to go out and look for opportunities. The VTC realized long ago the need for finding more internship opportunities for students in the Mainland and overseas countries. However, owing to the restraint of resources, most internship positions are offered locally and very few students can take up internship in the Mainland or overseas countries. I hope the industry can participate actively by providing such opportunities, and the Government can provide nominal subsidy to employers to encourage them to offer internship opportunities in the Mainland and overseas countries. In addition, the Government should subsidize the accommodation and living expenses incurred for overseas internship. The Education Bureau should also consider extending the existing scholarship schemes and matching grant schemes to include students of sub-degree programmes.
Both vocational education and traditional education have increasing demand for school premises. In the past, I had constantly requested the Government to address the problems of school premises under the VTC being aged and dilapidated and having insufficient spaces. The Education Bureau’s Task Force on Promotion of Vocational Education also mentioned this point in its report published in July this year, and specifically recommended the Government to assist in equipping the schools with advanced facilities, including the modernization of school premises.
President, to enhance the public’s recognition and awareness of vocational education as well as attract more students to receive vocational education, the Government must play a leading role by stepping up publicity; allocating additional resources to institutions to organize large-scale practical skills competitions and undertake more practical scientific and technological researches; enhancing the quality of teaching and learning, as well as assisting the industry to resolve technical difficulties, so as to enhance the overall strength and image of vocational education. Of course, it is also necessary to open government jobs for young people taking vocational education courses.
President, after years of reform, vocational education no longer purely aims at training workers for the labour market, but nurturing talents for the human resources market. We often say that talent is the most valuable resource of Hong Kong. If Hong Kong still wants to have an edge in global competition, education and training are the only way out. One of the best options is to support vocational education so that it can keep abreast of the times. I hope the Government can continue provide support to the VTC and the relevant institutions.
I know many colleagues had joined the visit to Germany and Switzerland. However, only Dr CHIANG Lai-wan and colleagues of the DAB had visited the VTC, while other colleagues are just making empty talks, having no idea what changes the VTC has made in the past 10 years. If my colleagues are concerned about vocational education, I hope they will pay a visit to the VTC to learn about its work.
Thank you, President.