Diversity of the Post-Secondary Education in Hong Kong

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1 Diversity of the Post-Secondary Education in Hong Kong Abstract There are many higher education institutions in Hong Kong. One may see things totally different in considering the diversity of Hong Kong. Some may think there are many institutions for high school graduates to choose from. On the other hand, high school graduates may feel they have no choices. Introduction Hong Kong, which is such a tiny place, has many higher education institutions. We have seventeen degree-granting higher education and a few other post-secondary institutions. About 20% of high school graduates are admitted to publicly funded higher education institutions, and the percentage would be higher if privately funded institutions are included. At first glance, the higher education sector seems booming in Hong Kong. But is it really true if we consider the diversity of the sector? This paper investigates the diversity of Hong Kong post-secondary education from three aspects, (1) diversity (in catering different abilities and interests); (2) flexibility of courses, and (3) the extent of recognition of the courses. Higher education institutions in Hong Kong The higher education of Hong Kong could be roughly divided into publicly funded and self-financed institutions. Another classification is that whether it is degree-granting. Regarding the publicly funded and degree-granting institutions, there are eight University Grants Committee (UGC) funded institutions (institutions, 2012) such as The Chinese university of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong. 1 In addition, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts is publicly funded. Concerning the degree-granting and self-financing institutions, there are eight institutions such as The Open University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Shue Yan University. (institutions, 2012) 2 1 The remaining are City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, Lingnan University, The Hong Kong Institution of Education, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 2 The remaining are Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Hang Seng Management College, Tung Wah College, Caritas Institution, Centennial College and Technology and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong Vocational Training Council.

2 To fulfill the policy goal of allowing sixty per cent of secondary students to enter higher education sector, more and more institutions are authorized to provide courses to high school graduates, apart from seventeen degree-awarding institutions, there are twenty two institutions providing full-time locally-accredited self-financing sub-degree and top-up degree programmes,( Institutions providing full-time locally-accredited self-financing sub-degree and degree (including top-up degree) programmes, 2012), for example Kaplan Business and Accountancy School and Hong Kong Art School. 3 Criteria of diversity of higher education There are totally four criteria for assessing the diversity of higher education. 1. Diversity in catering different abilities and interests Diverse sector should cater to different abilities regarding the students with different academic abilities and language minority students. For the higher education in Hong Kong, there is limited but growing effort in this concern. Students with different academic performance could enter different post-secondary education which is suitable for them. One may be surprised to find that in Hong Kong such a tiny place there are three universities are ranged within top 100 in the world, in some ranking such as the QS World University Rankings (2012) even ranges them in top There is no doubt that students who are capable to pursue higher academic achievements would waste their talent. On the other hand, students with lower learning abilities have many accesses to enter other post-secondary education institutions which offer vocational training and sub-degree programmes. With joint effort of the higher education sector and the authority, more and more programmes in various expertise and profession are open to high school graduates. 3 The remaining are Caritas Bianchi Colloge of Careers,, Lingnan University, Pui Ching Academy, Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Sacred Heart Canossian College of Commerce, City Univerisity of Hong Kong, SCAF Foundation (Hong Kong) Limited, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Adventist College, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, The Hong Kong Polytechni c University, Hong Kong Baptist University, The Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Buddist College, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong College of Technology, Tung Wah College, Hong Kong Institute of Technolongy, Vocational Training Council, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Yew Chung Communiy College, HKU SPACE Po Leung Kuk Community College and YMCA College of Careers. 4 According to the QS World University Rankings, University of Hong Kong is ranged twenty third, The Hong Kong University of Science of Technology is ranged thirty third, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong is ranged fortieth.

3 In contrast with Chinese students, ethnic minority students in Hong Kong face obstacles in pursuing their study. Their greatest obstacle is learning Chinese. It is difficult for them to achieve level three in Chinese Language which is the minimum requirement for many higher education institutions. According to the Census and Statistic Department(Apple Daily, 2012), the percentage of local minority students to the cohort of freshmen of higher education sector dropped from 1.1% in 2001 to 0.9% in However, those language minority could be as intelligent as many university students. Also, it is not troublesome for them to study in post-secondary education sector because the presence of non-local students who are also language minorities. Without corresponding policy support, for example regarding Chinese-as- Second-Language policy, the threshold of entering post-secondary education sector for the local ethnic minority is too high to fulfill the talent of them. With the contribution of the institutions, the diversity of the course choice in Hong Kong is high. There are numerous scopes of disciplines offered by the higher education institutions mentioned above. Students could find programmes about Liberal education, vocational training or the combination of both easily. For instance, Lingnan University (Faculties and Units, 2012) which dedicates itself to offer liberal education to students, it provides degree courses like History and Philosophy. On the other hand, institutions offer sub-degree programmes in various professional areas. For instance, Vocational Training Council provides higher diploma in aircraft maintenance engineering, architectural design, chemical technology, sports coaching, food and nutritional science and so on. 2. Flexibility of courses To promote lifelong learning and to cater to different learning pattern, the flexibility of courses should be taken into account for the diversity of higher education. In Hong Kong, there are many part-time programmes provided by the universities and other institutions. For instance, HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education offers 1368 programmes for various disciplines for example Chinese Medicine, Languages and Humanities and Law.(Part-time Programmes, 2012) On job training would be favoured. In addition, The Open University of Hong Kong provides other form of programmes, the Distance learning Programmes such as Associate of Arts in Chinese and English and Postgraduate Certificate in Liberal Studies Education. (Programmes(Distance Learning), 2012) It provides convenience for the handicapped to receive higher education. The higher education sector seems to be diverse in this regard.

4 3. Recognition of courses Besides three criteria mentioned above, the most important criterion is recognition. The courses with diversity are empty with a wide recognition. However the recognition of most of the higher education institutions is low respected in Hong Kong. According to the statistics of IPASS (Mingpao, 2012), the salary of the first job of most of the associate degree graduates was below $ In addition, the unemployment rate of the non-degree holders, which was 5.5% in the third season and 4.6% in the forth season, was the highest among groups with different education background. (Mingpao, 2012) These data indicates that the recognition of most of the non-degree courses is low. This situation creates a dilemma for students in choosing the higher education institutions and courses. Their effort put in the study does not yield fruits. Students will just strive for the degree programmes ignoring other courses in non-degree granting institutions. Though many courses are provided, high school graduates may feel they do not have many choices in higher education because most of them are dead ended. The diversity of higher education cannot be exhibited under this circumstance. Comparison between Hong Kong and the Switzerland Both Hong Kong and Switzerland are prominent as an education provider. With similar population and per capital GDP, the higher education sector of Switzerland follows, however, a different or one may say opposite pattern of that of Hong Kong Unlike Hong Kong, Students in Switzerland prefer to receive vocational education. Swiss students in Secondary II schools, which represent high schools, already have to choose between full-time academic schools or dual vocational education that preparing for academic universities or vocational colleges. (Topics, 2012) Imagining this situation of choice making come up in Hong Kong, none will hesitate to go for the academic track. However, things go in opposite in Switzerland. Switzerland places strong emphasis on vocational education. With reference to the research done by Christoph Metzger, Rebecca Maynard, Julie Vultaggio, Tsukasa Daizen, Sumonta Promboon, Kin Yuen Ip and So Young Park(2009), the majority of Swiss Students opt for the vocational education. This situation carries the continuity of the secondary education sector to the higher education sector. Similar to Hong Kong, the courses provided by higher vocational institutions in Switzerland span a wide range of content. The programmes cover over agriculture, food and beverage, printing and many other professional technics.

5 Though vocational track of higher education is booming in Switzerland, qualified traditional universities could also be found. For instance, University of Zurich is a well-known comprehensive academy which nurtures twelve Nobel Prize laureates. (University of Zurich, 2012) The difference between Hong Kong and Switzerland in the significance of vocational education is because of the economic reasons and different system applied. Concerning the economic reasons, a research done by Christoph Metzger, Rebecca Maynard, Julie Vultaggio, Tsukasa Daizen, Sumonta Promboon, Kin Yuen Ip and So Young Park(2010) indicates that graduates who receive vocational training earn as much as even more salaries that those on the academic track while that is not the case in Hong Kong. Normally graduates from traditional universities are expected to receive higher income. Regarding system difference, since Swiss Students have already chose the stream in their high school, studying in the higher vocational institutions would be regarded as a further pursue in education. If they go on with the study, higher degrees of vocational education are readily available. On the contrary, Hong Kong students would regard that enrolment of vocational education is a backup if they fail to secure a place in traditional university. The firm base of the Swiss vocational education is the well-organized regulation. The Confederation regulates the legal requirements for all trades and professions and cooperates with the cantons and professional organizations in developing ordinances for vocational education. (Topics, 2012) Under the regulations, the educational level, transitions between levels, mutual recognition of institutions and degrees are attuned. The efforts ensure the quality and recognition of vocational education. Looking back to Hong Kong, though the quantity of the vocational training is abundant, the effort put into the quality and recognition does not come in the same proportion which cause the major reason why the diversity of higher education in Hong Kong is limited despite those incredible data of high percentage of students granted entrance. Conclusion The diversity of higher education in Hong Kong needs improvements. In the last few decade the post-secondary sector in Hong Kong did made huge progress but always there is room to improve. From the time that only the pick of bunch were able to entering into higher education sector, to the time now that around 60% participation

6 rate in higher education, no one will dispute the fact that the higher education have been ever booming. Programme choices and the course flexibility contribute the keen favourable environment of pursuing education. However, the reality is not as rosy as the first glance because most of the sub-degree programmes are not well-respected. Though there is not possible for Hong Kong to directly copy the pattern of the Swiss education system, their restless dedication in improving the quality and recognition of their education is worth appreciation towards it. Reflection towards ours situation, especially in vocational tracks, should be made. Prompt action should be taken to promote the true diversity of our higher education sector. It is not only for the students, indeed it helps to improve our society as a whole. Reference

7 1. Institutions providing full-time locally-accredited self-financing sub-degree and degree (including top-up degree) programmes. Retrieved December 6, 2012, from 2. Institutions. Retrieved December 7, 2012, from 3. Full-time Publicly-funded VTC Sub-degree Programmes in 2012/13, Retrieved December 6, 2012 from ardbynonlocalinsti=0&publicity=1 4. Faculities & Units, Retrieved 1 December, 2012, from 5. New Academic Structure Web Bulletin, Retrieved 10 December, 2012, from 6. QS World University Rankings, Retrieved 10 December, 2012, from Part-time Programmes, Retrieved 3 December, 2012, from sc 8. Programmes(Distance Learning), Retrieved 3 December, 2012, from v=2&lang=eng 9. Programmes(Distance Learning), Retrieved 3 December, 2012, from v=4&lang=eng 10. Topics, Retrieved 1 December, 2012, from 11. University of Zurich, Retrieved December 1, 2012, from 12. Christoph M, Rebecca M, Julie V, Tsukasa D, Sumonta P, Kin Yuen I, So-Young P. (2010). A Comparative perspective on the secondary and post-secondary education systems in six nations: Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, South Korea, Thailand and the United States. Retrieved 1 December, 2012, from Google Scholar, 13. Apple Daily. (2012, May 6). A08. 缺 乏 支 援 平 機 會 : 融 合 教 育 失 敗 14. Mingpao. (2011, May 21). A12. 副 學 士 失 業 率 高 於 小 學 程 度 15. Mingpao, (2012, February 6). A13 副 學 士 又 是 個 炸 彈

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