English skills pave way to success

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am

Options abound for overseas study, and graduates will have a competitive edge in their career development

MANY OF HONG KONG's best and brightest opt to study overseas. A key draw is the chance to improve their English skills. Another advantage is experiencing life in another culture.

'Hong Kong needs people with an international perspective who are fluent in English. A summer or even a semester abroad isn't enough to do that,' Academic and Continuing Education director Joanna D'Ettore Leung said.

British Council manager of education Debbie Wong agreed. 'Graduates today are expected to master a high level of English language skills and international exposure is often preferred by employers,' she said.

'Overseas graduates will have a competitive edge in their career development, especially for sophisticated economies like Hong Kong.'

Britain has traditionally been a preferred destination for Hong Kong students. Many of the city's movers and shakers were educated there.

'The rich cultural diversity of Britain makes it an embracing intercultural environment to live, study, enjoy life and nurture new friendships. In addition to its renowned quality and the innovation of its education, the opportunity to gain working experience during their course of study will greatly enhance graduates' ability to be employed in the competitive environment we live in,' Ms Wong said.

Britain's educational system offers a wide selection of programmes to meet the diverse learning styles and aspirations of students. It is also a gateway to Europe.

'The diverse range of disciplines on offer at different entry levels will equip students with the necessary exposure and opportunities for gaining independence and problem-solving skills,' Ms Wong said.

The United States - with its immense variety of study options - is Hong Kong's other most important study destination. With more than 3,500 tertiary institutions offering nearly 500 different fields of study, the country offers countless choices for Form Seven graduates. Most secondary school leavers furthering their education in the US pursue one of two basic study routes - enrolling in a two-year community college or applying directly to a four-year institution.

Community colleges offer certain advantages - they are cheaper and have lower entrance requirements. Classes are smaller and instructors concentrate on teaching rather than research. After completion at a community college students can transfer to a four-year institution.

If they have followed an approved course of study and maintained an acceptable grade point average they can usually enter four-year institutions as year three students. The second option is to apply directly to a four-year institution. Students not familiar with the American system should keep in mind that the terms college and university have considerable overlap in the US.

Colleges tend to be smaller but not necessarily of a lower standard. Some of the country's most prestigious institutions of higher learning are colleges.

Australia was growing in popularity because - as Ms D'Ettore Leung pointed out - its universities were gaining stature in international rankings. Further advantages include an educational system similar to Hong Kong's, affordable costs and a low crime rate.

Canada offers the best of both worlds. The country's educational system is half-way between the British and American models. The country offers a relatively safe environment, is multicultural and the large Chinese communities in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver can make students from Hong Kong feel at home.