Hong Kong schools

Hong Kong not equipping students for the future as well as Singapore or South Korea, study says

Hong Kong youth may lose out on jobs as a result, says Economist Intelligence Unit, calling on government to do more ahead of big changes in the economy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 8:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 4:15pm

Hong Kong students are less prepared than their peers in Singapore and South Korea for a future where technology will be king, migration will increase, and the environment will continue to worsen – and may lose out on jobs as a result, according to new research.

Hong Kong came in 14th – behind Singapore, Japan and South Korea – in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index released on Tuesday, that assessed how well education systems prepare people aged 15 to 24 for the future.

China came 31st out of 35 places ranked.

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The index is the first of its scale to focus on the students’ preparation for the future.

“This is really a call to action,” said Trisha Suresh, a senior consultant at the EIU, which is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group. She noted that even the top-ranked countries – New Zealand, Canada and Finland – had a lot to improve.

Suresh said the countries that did not prepare students for the economy of the future “just won’t be as competitive”.

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“The world of tomorrow is going to be very different to today. It’s always changing, we need to be prepared for it, and this is one attempt to nudge governments into thinking about education differently,” she said. “This is an attempt at creating a blueprint for what it means to educate for the future.”

The countries ranked account for 77 per cent of the global population. The index assessed how well they were preparing students for a world where they would need interdisciplinary, creative, analytical, entrepreneurial, leadership, digital and technical skills, as well as global awareness and civic education.

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It used a combination of quantitative measures – like government education spending – and qualitative measures – like the quality of career counselling – to assess countries in three areas: teaching environment, policy, and socio-economic environment.

The index found China needed to improve in all three areas, especially its teaching environment, where it ranked second worst. Like other populous countries, China has an extra need to improve, as it has a big workforce, Suresh said.

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The report said in China there is a sense that its highly competitive exam-based education is no longer suitable.

A major problem for Hong Kong, according to the study, is its education policy, where it was ranked 22nd. Singapore ranked first.

“Hong Kong lacks a comprehensive policy when it comes to equipping youth with skills for the future,” Suresh said, adding that the city had started making efforts in that direction.

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To prepare students for the future, the report said, countries need a curriculum focused on future skills, ways of testing those skills, and well-supported teachers who are equipped to teach them.

Career counselling and a vibrant civil society that addresses issues relevant to the economy of the future also help, it said.

“It’s thinking about the world we are going to live in,” Suresh said, noting that maths and science would still be important in the economy of tomorrow.

The study was commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation, set up by Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of mainland tech giant Tencent. The findings were released to coincide with the announcement of the foundation’s inaugural Yidan Prize, which aim to encourage research and innovation in education.

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“Education is like medicine; it must be provided to all,” Chen said, adding that he had decided to dedicate his life to education as it had “changed his life” by providing him opportunities.

The first recipients of the prize, who each got a cash prize of HK$15 million and a project fund of HK$15 million, were Stanford University professor Carol Dweck, who researches how psychological mindsets can influence a student’s success, and Vicky Colbert, who directs Colombian non-governmental organisation Escuela Nueva.