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|Monday, August 07, 2000, updated at 22:07(GMT+8)|
Education Top on HK Government's Agenda, OfficialThe government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is giving top priority to education and allocating a considerable sum of money for life-long learning, a Hong Kong official said on Monday.
The 21st century is described as the Information Age, in which the primary resource is "knowledge," said Fanny Law, Secretary for Education and Manpower, at the opening ceremony of the International Vocational Education and Training Association Conference 2000.
To equip people with necessary knowledge, Law said, the government's spending on education has become the largest single item of expenditure, with an annual allocation of 7 billion US dollars, making up 22.3 percent of the government budget in the current financial year.
The government provides nine years of free and universal education from the age of six. At the age of fifteen, about 90 percent of the students continue their education in mainstream schools; the rest in vocational training or the workplace, she said.
Faced with the challenges of a knowledge society, Hong Kong's education system is undergoing a comprehensive review, covering the academic structure, the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, according to Law.
Consistent with the over-arching education objectives, and to meet the rapidly changing market demands, Hong Kong government's approach to vocational education and training also changes.
While equipping students with up-to-date industry-specific skills is still necessary to meet job requirements, this has to be balanced with the need to develop in the young people the ability to adapt and respond to changing circumstances, and the aptitude for lifelong learning, Law said.
The Vocational Training Council (VTC), as Hong Kong's key provider of vocational education, has fully taken on board the demands of a knowledge society, and introduced training modules on the core generic skills of communication, and information technology in the comprehensive certificate and foundation courses on vocational education, Law said.
A survey conducted by the University Grants Committee last year showed that 370,000 people, or about one-tenth of Hong Kong's working population, had attended continuing education courses at the equivalent of tertiary education. Another 330,000 people enrolled in continuing education courses at lower levels.
To promote lifelong learning, the government recently launched a comprehensive database on continuing education, accessible through the Internet, to help those who are interested in further studies to identify courses that best suit their personal interests and development needs.
The latest count shows that nearly 600 institutions currently provide more than 5 000 courses.
To ensure that no one is deprived of lifelong learning for lack of financial means, the government provides non-means tested loans to students of continuing education and professional courses, Law said.
Furthermore, the government is actively considering a flexible and open system for mutual recognition of qualifications among training providers, and the development of a qualifications ladder.
To meet the demand of the information technology age, the government launched the "Digit 21" IT strategy in 1998. Equipping people with the know-how to use IT is a task encompassed in the strategy, Law said. Under a five-year strategy on IT education, the government has committed 4 billion US dollars for capital investment and 70 million U.S. dollars per annum from 1999 onwards, she said.
Law admitted that, like other economies, Hong Kong is faced with an acute shortage of IT practitioners.
Following a detailed analysis of IT manpower requirements, the government has formulated a manpower strategy aimed at increasing the supply of IT manpower, enhance the range and relevance of IT training.
To increase the supply of IT practitioners in the short-term, the government granted 23 million US dollars to the Vocational Training Council to upgrade its IT infrastructure and provide intensive training programs over a three-year period, Law said.
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