Carrie Lam policy address 2021
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A child interacts with a robot at an exhibition “Robots – The 500-Year Quest to Make Machines Human” at the Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui on November 16, 2020. Photo: Sam Tsang

Letters | Hong Kong isn’t investing enough in home-grown talent

  • Readers discuss the declining government expenditure on education in Hong Kong, and the shortcomings of the latest policy address
Talent is the driving force in the development of innovation and technology. However, the policy address only focuses on attracting global talent, when cultivating local talent is equally critical.
Hong Kong has lagged behind developed economies in terms of investment in the nurturing of local talent, according to international reports. While our GDP per capita is ranked 25th in the world, ahead of countries like Germany, we are ranked low for education expenditure as a share of GDP: 53rd out of 63 economies in the IMD World Talent Ranking 2020, and 76th out of 132 economies in the Global Innovation Index 2021.
Further, a report, “ Nurturing of local talent”, by the Legislative Council Secretariat pointed out that the share of education expenditure in total government expenditure has continued to decline from 20.1 per cent in 2010-2011 to 15.4 per cent in the budget for 2021-2022. At the same time, the estimated recurrent government expenditure on education in 2021-2022 will increase by only 3.7 per cent, which is far below social welfare (16.2 per cent) and health (7.9 per cent). This raises doubts about the government’s commitment to education.

To develop the digital economy, we need to cultivate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) literacy and strengthen coding education in primary and secondary school to secure the supply of local talent.

However, as mentioned in the Legco report, although “the government has invested heavily in STEM education”, the approach is too loose. Under the “school-oriented policy”, the efforts to promote STEM are planned by schools alone, and they may encounter problems such as unclear guidelines, and inadequate experience and support for teachers.

Countries around the world not only invest heavily in STEM and coding education, but also seek professional advice and set official requirements. The partnership between Singapore’s Ministry of Education and STEM Inc in developing and implementing STEM education is one example. Another example is schools in the United Kingdom and South Korea, which have made coding education mandatory since 2014 and 2018 respectively. In mainland China, a national policy paper in 2017 recommended that primary and secondary schools strengthen science and coding education.
Therefore, to enrich our talent pool, the local education authority should set guidelines on STEM and coding education, similar to those for maths and languages, to drive academic requirements in primary and secondary schools. In so doing, we can better prepare students for the new economy in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.

Dr Winnie Tang, adjunct professor, faculties of engineering, social sciences and architecture, University of Hong Kong

Why the policy address was a missed opportunity

I tried to think about how the policy address delivered on October 6 would affect my life and the lives of my fellow Hongkongers, but it was hard for me to come to a conclusion.

While it is clear that the policy address aims to serve as a visionary blueprint for Hong Kong, I cannot grasp what this future looks like for our city. What about it would excite young people in our polarised society?

I am concerned that people can no longer relate to the government and will be indifferent to the policies implemented.


Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam gives last policy address of current term, ending on emotional note

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam gives last policy address of current term, ending on emotional note

If Hong Kong is to really rebuild the future together, I have three suggestions.

First, reorient the policy initiatives. Apart from striving to uphold “one country, two systems”, has the government aligned itself with young people’s concerns these days and is it trying to address these concerns instead of what the government cares about? The goals of various policies need to be communicated clearly, with persuasive arguments.

Second, define the existing problems accurately and realistically. We need to include diverse voices when we are incubating ideas and formulating policies so as to identify the root causes of our problems. This would help build a foundation of trust.

Third, lower the threshold for public participation in the initiatives that matter. The reason is simple: ordinary people are also part of society.

Hong Kong has built and is developing “hardware” and infrastructure such as M+ museum, Xiqu Centre and the Hong Kong Palace Museum. Now we need to incorporate the “software”, by including people from all walks of life. For example, we should make sure free entry is offered to less privileged groups or to all residents on certain days.

We must rethink what matters to Hong Kong and focus on inclusivity.

S. Ching Choi, Admiralty