Taster courses give Hong Kong pupils the chance of real job training
Opportunities in areas like food science and engineering offer a professional alternative to university
Secondary school students will be given opportunities to explore vocational training at an earlier stage with the government providing subsidies for “taster programmes”, including areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), 3D printing and food science.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his budget on Wednesday that the government would deploy an extra HK$700 million out of the city’s fiscal surplus for the Education Bureau.
According to a government source part of this would be spent on subsidising pupils who wish to try such programmes provided by institutions offering relevant opportunities.
The taster scheme was intended to let students gain a better understanding of various fields and see if it was something they enjoyed.
But the source was unable to provide details on the exact amount to be spent on the scheme, the subsidy amounts for each programme and the number of students who could benefit as it was still at a preliminary stage.
Veteran educator Tai Hay-lap welcomed the move.
He noted that currently there were few opportunities for pupils to experience vocational training as not many mainstream schools offered applied learning subjects due to logistic issues, such as difficulties in finding facilities and teachers.
While students who wished to pursue vocational training could take such courses at senior secondary levels in institutions such as the Vocational Training Council (VTC) and Chinese Culinary Institute, Tai noted that there was still a stigma against taking such a path in Hong Kong.
“Many students do not dare to switch to vocational training as they view it as inferior to being in mainstream schools,” he said.
The former principal and Education Commission member believed the taster programmes would be a good way for students to experience vocational training at secondary school level.
“Vocational programmes have changed. There are a lot of prospects and innovation in such fields,” he said, citing the examples of how being a car mechanic now involved a lot of information technology and hairdressers had ample opportunities to take part in competitions.
Tai hoped that the new scheme would lead to more collaboration between vocational institutions, mainstream schools and the industries themselves.
A spokeswoman for the VTC, the largest vocational and professional education and training provider in Hong Kong, said the council believed that the government’s move to strengthen vocational education would encourage more young people to choose such a path and cultivate talent in line with the city’s social and economic needs.
In 2015 a government task force recommended that vocational education should be rebranded to the public as a professional alternative to traditional university schooling.
One of the suggestions was to help vocational education providers introduce better facilities, enhance the quality of their programmes and encourage more research to promote its image as a “professional institution”.
Besides the taster programmes, the Education Bureau will spend part of the HK$700 million on the training and professional development of principals and teachers, and enhancing support for local post-secondary students through scholarships.
Separately, the government allocated HK$300 million to expand a scholarship and programme for young people to broaden their horizons.