To turn a service-based economy into a knowledge-based one, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa made a pledge in his policy address that the Government would enlarge the number of undergraduates from 18 per cent of the young to 60 per cent in 10 years.
Even this number seems low in comparison with Shanghai, where the number receiving tertiary education tops 70 per cent, and the US, with equal or higher statistics. Such a low number may hamper Hong Kong from becoming the Asian international city.
There is an urgent need for human resources planning for Hong Kong to stay ahead of other cities in the region. However, that is easier said than done.
First, whether there are enough students eligible to receive tertiary education will be a great concern. With the increasing number of undergraduates over the past decade, some faculties have been involuntarily compelled to admit average students.
Secondly, universities' facilities may not be able to meet the need of increasing numbers of students. Take the University of Hong Kong as an example. It has more than 8,000 undergraduates. The figure could reach as high as 15,000 students, I believe, and then the capacity of facilities would have to be doubled. Furthermore, more teaching staff would have to be recruited to keep the teacher-student ratio at a reasonable level. Is the Government willing to assume financial responsibility?
Thirdly, the increase in the number of those going to university - and ease of entry - may relieve the need to strive hard to earn a place, and allow students to take degrees with little hard work.
These drawbacks must be taken into account.
Furthermore, by my reckoning, the 60 per cent target has in fact already been reached, even exceeded. Adding the number of students in vocational training schemes to the present number of university students makes up that figure. Why is it that vocational training is not included as tertiary education? I wish education officials would consult more with universities, vocational training centres and all the various parties concerned and not just echo 'The Boss'.