Education system in Hong Kong has not offered students multiple pathways

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 11:03pm

I refer to the letter from Fok Pui-yi (“More places in university will boost growth”, July 2).

Hong Kong parents set great store by sending their children to university; hence the tremendous pressure on them to do well in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) exams. Yet, getting a university degree is not the same as receiving a quality university education. Many employers complain that the graduates nowadays have poorer language and analytical skills than their forebears. Many are also socially immature and less resilient.

A household income survey published by the Census and Statistics Department in June indicates that wages of university graduates in Hong Kong have increased only 8 per cent in five years, while wages for those without education increased 41.3 per cent. A University of Hong Kong academic explained that the wage level of university graduates has stagnated because many of them are employed in jobs that only require high school graduates, while workers in the lowest income brackets have benefited from the statutory minimum wage and the shortage of manual labour.

Thus, greater upward mobility for graduates will only occur when our economy is able to create jobs that create more value and require higher skills.

Moreover, with declining student population in the coming years, if the government keeps creating more university places without a commensurate ability to create more high value-added jobs, our university graduates will be stuck in a slow track.

On the other hand, there is no lack of employers who say they prefer higher diploma graduates to university graduates for the jobs they want to fill.

Yet, high school students are not taking higher diploma courses because the funding for such courses has been cut. Under the New Senior Secondary curriculum, all school students prepare for the HKDSE, and going to university seems to be the only option.

I agree with your correspondent that many of the problems encountered by our students today are caused by major flaws in our education system. It has failed to provide multiple pathways for students with different abilities.

Expansion of higher education in quantity but not necessarily in quality results in a mismatch of manpower, and could breed much frustration and disappointment on the part of our young people a few years down the road.

Regina Ip, legislative councillor