The government is being urged to step up a push for mutual recognition of Hong Kong and mainland academic qualifications, and relax regulations to make it easier for local education institutions to offer classes on the mainland.
The call, made at a Legislative Council education panel meeting yesterday, comes after the government pledged to develop education as one of six pillar industries.
In response to legislators' criticism of stringent rules limiting the provision of training by local educational groups to mainlanders, Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on said gradual progress was being made in boosting mutual academic recognition. He pledged to explore the possibility of allowing local senior secondary schools to admit mainland students.
Professor Patrick Lau Sau-shing, the lawmaker representing architects, complained about inconsistencies in mutual qualification for different trades. 'For the construction industry, some [specialists' qualifications] have mutual recognition and some don't,' he said. 'And how about other professions like law and accounting?'
Chen cited the provision of training in 12 trades by the Vocational Training Council as an example of progress in mutual recognition over the past year. The council's Hong Kong Design Institute jointly established a training centre with a vocational training school in Guangdong last year to provide skills training in 12 fields, including beauty and property management.
Graduates from the Guangdong training school can have Hong Kong qualifications recognised by the council, and sit for the National Vocational Qualification exam, a universal exam leading to professional licensing for different trades on the mainland. It means graduates can find work in both Hong Kong and on the mainland.
But council chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said a ban on using money from Hong Kong's coffers to develop programmes on the mainland prevented them from extending training programmes to more mainland cities. 'We must do it in a self-financed way [when we develop programmes on the mainland],' he said. 'There should be a policy to allow us to use local money to organise mainland programmes.'
With the Polytechnic University planning to establish a campus in Dongguan and Chinese University planning to set up one in Shenzhen, education lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said the government must ensure that the credentials attained on those mainland campuses were recognised in both Hong Kong and on the mainland.