Innovative solutions keep us competitive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 12:00am

One of the greatest human traits is our ability to innovate, adapt, reform and change for the better. It has allowed us to overcome countless obstacles which were thought at first to be insurmountable in order to create the modern society in which we live. Yet, despite our ability to innovate and adapt, we often have an irrational fear of change, especially when we have been profiting from the status quo. The stance of professional drivers against the idling engine ban and the resistance from many in the catering sector to the smoking ban are just a few of the examples in Hong Kong.

Another change to the status quo is taking place in our education system. Previously, an emphasis on rote-learning and the predictability of formulaic examinations spawned a profitable publishing industry and the rise of the celebrity tutor whose images are plastered on buses and prominent buildings like celebrities endorsing a luxury brand. But now, with education reforms hoping to reduce reliance on rote-learning and produce more independent thinkers, the education industry must adapt. Furthermore, with an ageing population and falling student numbers, it will suffer some severe blows if it cannot think ahead and invest in adapting to the changing landscape. The Education Bureau estimates the city's Form One population will fall from 75,400 in the latest academic year to 53,900 in 2016-2017. Across the six forms, there are expected to be 97,600 students fewer than today by 2016. Around 2,500 teachers are expected to be surplus by 2012.

Publishers thinking ahead are diversifying into teaching packages in expectation of reduced reliance on textbooks. Tutorial centres are doing the same, while bus companies are re-organising routes to tap the cross-border education market and tailors are seeking alternative clients in need of uniforms. None of these solutions are guaranteed to succeed and small enterprises may go out of business. But all of these are examples of innovative business solutions to a changing market which are so characteristic of Hong Kong and will ultimately keep this city competitive.