Hong Kong must transform its school curriculums to power an innovative future

Joseph Wan calls on the government and schools to instil and support a tech-oriented mindset among the young, so they are inspired to make the most of Hong Kong’s unique advantages

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 11:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 7:09pm

Young people are our future, and we need to invest in them to ensure they are equipped with the best resources and skills to build, for example, the next Facebook or Tencent.

Hong Kong is a truly international city – where east meets west; where ideas stem from a deeply rooted, multicultural personality. Our rule of law gives us a freer and highly competitive marketplace where business ideas can flourish. Yet we are also an “inalienable” part of China, which means we have unique and unprecedented access to a market of over a billion people.

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In 2012, Hong Kong’s first tech-oriented co-working space, CoCoon, opened. Today, we have over 40 fully packed technology co-working spaces. Undoubtedly, our start-up scene has grown, and we have much to be proud of.

The government deserves praise for its efforts in stimulating the growth of the start-up and technology industry. In 2015, the city appointed its first technology and innovation secretary, government grants started to be made more accessible for young entrepreneurs and, most recently, the Lok Ma Chau Loop project was launched.

I am well aware of the arguments against the project but, holistically, it is important for the government to support the innovation industry, and this is a step in the right direction.

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But this is not enough. Innovation cannot happen from the top down – the government should invest in programmes that instil a mindset of business and entrepreneurship in young people, instead of extensive and sometimes unnecessary vetting exams. Courses on programming, coding and hardware development should be introduced to help foster growth and ingenuity.

The government also needs to find meaningful ways to reach out to young people

School curriculums have to be revitalised. In addition to the core subjects of English, Chinese, maths and liberal studies, the Education Bureau should perhaps include computer science and business – to work hand-in-hand with the four main subjects. For example, the public speaking and oral skills learnt in English can benefit business learning. By bringing such subjects into the core level, today’s students will be ready for the fast-paced times ahead. These subjects should not be a “privilege” to study, but must be accessible to all.

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The government also needs to find meaningful ways to reach out to young people; in the age of social media, this should be easy.

Despite the strides we have taken to become a more technologically diverse and sustainable society, we are still falling behind our international counterparts. Changing times calls for a change in the school curriculum and learning. We cannot stand still.

Joseph Wan is founder and president of Support! International Foundation in Hong Kong