22 October 2019
Hong Kong needs to step up funding for vocational education to build the talent pool required for the city's future. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong needs to step up funding for vocational education to build the talent pool required for the city's future. Photo: HKEJ

Vocational education needs fresh push

Secondary schools in Hong Kong are mostly functioning as grammar schools nowadays, obsessed with drilling their students for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE).

Teenagers who want to pursue a different path of education often find themselves running out of school choices. Although there are still some secondary schools which offer vocational training courses, most of them are run on a shoestring as government funding for these schools is minimal.

In fact our schools used to be much more diversified in the past, when there were grammar schools, technical schools and vocational schools which offered a wide variety of subjects, and students could choose the schools that suit their interests and abilities best.

However, in March 1997 the government unveiled the “Review of Prevocational and Secondary Technical Education”, in which it decided that grammar schools would be given priority over other types of schools in order to boost the number of university students and enhance the overall academic level of our workforce.

Sine then the number of technical schools and vocational schools has been continually on the decline, and vocational training courses have taken a back seat to typical academic subjects at secondary school levels.

The implementation of the so-called “3-3-4″ system in 2012 only fuelled the university degree seeking frenzy in society, and hastened the decline of vocational schools as most parents prefer to send their children to grammar schools rather than vocational schools in order to get a better chance of receiving higher education for their children.

Unfortunately, even under the 3-3-4 system, the percentage of students getting admitted to universities has remained limited. In fact, more than 9,000 form six students, or about 12 percent dropped out.

For those who fail to gain admission to universities, private vocational schools are one of the options. However, the lack of government funding for these schools means students often have to pay high tuition fees, not to mention the worries that these schools might shut down at any time before they graduate.

Also, many parents simply haven’t heard of these schools at all, thanks to insufficient and half-hearted government promotion.

I believe it is the responsibility of the government to provide a more diversified education for our children, as they are all born with different talents and interests, and therefore they should be given a wider variety of options when it comes to school choices.

Besides, only by introducing a more diversified school curriculum can we cultivate diversified talent for our society, thereby enriching the workforce and facilitating diversity in our economy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 5.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legislative Council member from the education sector