Preparing to meet the teaching challenges of the new millennium, Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) has launched its first degree programme. Introduced this academic year, the course is a four-year, full-time Bachelor of Education programme with an emphasis on the use of information technology (IT). Aiming to enhance the quality of teachers, the institute has been increasingly moving towards IT education to match rapid social developments. It recently established an Information and Application Technology Faculty to bring student teachers up to date on IT education. Competition for places on the new degree course was intense, with 4,000 students applying for the 112 seats on offer in its first year. Institute director Professor Ruth Hayhoe said teachers in the 21st century must be open- minded and capable of using a wide range of IT tools in a creative approach to their profession. The new degree course would offer broader and more in-depth training than the two- year certificate programme, she said. 'The intense competition for seats in our institute indicated that HKIEd is able to at tract quality and highly-motivated students,' she said. Professor Hayhoe said the institute would be looking at ways to expand the degree intake by absorbing certificate graduates. Speaking to students, she said teaching was a life-long and challenging career that carried important responsibilities and commitments to society. 'We must train our students to be responsible teachers to enable children and young people to become fully-developed citizens,' she said. It was important for teachers to stimulate children through education. Teachers should use teaching methods which explored children's potential in learning, Professor Hayhoe said.