Some policy initiatives, although formulated with good intentions, ended up being both ineffective and unpopular, mainly due to careless planning and poor execution.
The Continuing Education Fund (CEF), which has been put in place since 2002, could well be one of those policies.
Back in 2002, in order to promote further education in the city’s workforce and raise their overall competitiveness, the administration allocated HK$5 billion to set up the CEF.
Under the program, those who are enrolled in academic or vocational courses provided by certified institutions can get reimbursed for up to 80 percent of the tuition they have paid or a maximum of HK$10,000 per year.
Almost 15 years into its implementation, the CEF has run into certain problems, and many have complained about major shortcomings in the program.
Perhaps it is time for the administration to review the fund and seek ways to improve it.
There are indeed certain aspects of the fund that may be improved:
1. The administration should consider raising the amount of funding for applicants per year. The upper limit has remained at HK$10,000 ever since it was set in 2002.
Considering that the cost of study has risen considerably due to inflation over the past 14 years, perhaps it is time to raise the cap.
2. Although the government has expanded the scope of the funding four times since 2002, many human resources experts have pointed out that some of the courses covered by the program are already outdated, and can no longer meet the requirements of employers today.
The government must therefore assess the courses funded by the CEF thoroughly and regularly, in order to make sure that these courses can keep abreast of the latest developments in the job market, and that money won’t be spent on courses that are useless.
3. Given the scarcity of public resources, the government must also provide sufficient oversight of those institutions providing courses funded by the CEF to guarantee high quality education for our workforce.
4. Some of the courses on the CEF list are actually not of any academic or vocational nature. For example, there are several courses on stock market investment strategies on the list. Whether enrollment in these kinds of courses should be funded by public money is highly questionable.
5. The government should work closely with different sectors and take into account their views in reviewing the courses under the CEF to make sure all the courses conform with the real needs of society and the labor market.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 8
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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