Hong Kong lags behind Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, in ‘promoting innovation’
Educators say other countries are doing more to take steps away from exam-focused learning
When Hong Kong’s education system was ranked lower than those in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan in the recently released Economist Intelligence Unit Index, one should not overlook the fact that except Taiwan, the others have one thing in common: they are all exam-focused.
But John Lee Chi-kin, a chair professor at Education University’s department for curriculum and instruction, said Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were doing better in promoting innovation in their education system, while Hong Kong did not encourage students to take risk.
“We should encourage more risk-taking mentality in our schooling and education system,” he said. “We need a more flexible system that encourages other learning experiences and extracurricular activities.”
Echoing Lee’s views, educator Jennifer Ma Yin-wai said: “Singapore and Korea have been extremely successful at building their education institutes promoting the arts and vocational career paths, and most importantly creating job opportunities in these areas. This is an aspect perhaps worthy of wider consideration for the entire society.
“I feel Hong Kong students have a lot of potential but they must look around and beyond Hong Kong to seek opportunities worldwide,” said Ma, the founder of the privately owned Arch Education.
“The 21st century is globalised for a reason and it is time we learn from other countries, retain our city’s identity and strengths, and encourage our next generation to have grit to aspire and the courage to set their own destiny.”
Here’s a glance at how Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea are preparing students for the future:
The Singapore’s Ministry of Education says it has been moving towards an education that is “more flexible and diverse” in recent years. In February, it announced that the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University will launch a New Skillsfuture Work-Study degree programmes, where employers will play a “more involved role” in developing the talent pipeline for their industry, such as assessing the placement of potential candidates on these programmes and designing the programme curriculum with the two universities to align the content with industry needs.
The Taiwanese government has been promoting the importance of “imagining the future”.In 2011, the Ministry of Education launched a four-year national creativity educational programme – The Programme of Creativity and Imagining the Futures – that covers all levels of education. A sub-programme – named My Little Wild Campus – was designed to specifically target university students, whom were encouraged to undertake tiny revolutions in college life to make future social changes by submitting their creativity proposals for competition.
According to a 2015 white paper by South Korea’s Ministry of Education and Korea Education and Research Information Centre, the country planned to push software education innovation towards elementary and secondary schools and universities. Junior schools will implement basic software education from 2019 onwards.
A tale of two systems
A recent study suggested Hong Kong students are less equipped than their peers in Singapore and South Korea for the future, what do our students think about that? City Weekend interviewed to two young Hongkongers on what their experience in the city’s schools was like.
Name: Wendy Leung Wing-man
O ccupation: Product manager at a neuroscience company
Background: A recent graduate in neuroscience from a Hong Kong university
How has your university education prepared you for your future job?
I think my current job does not make proper use of what I learned from my major, because I’m in a totally different field. However, it is related to science, so I can utilise my skills in research and prepare myself with the adequate information or knowledge to become familiar with my company’s products to better understand the needs of my customers.
Do you think the learning environment in Hong Kong has encouraged creative thinking?
I don’t think so. At school, questions were designed in the same style, both in coursework and examinations for many years, and students usually are not asked to use creative thinking to complete assignments. And there are always standard answers for different topics and particular questions, and there are many sources in reaching answers, I believe copying is one of the easiest and direct ways that students complete their tasks.
What do you wish you could have learned more at school?
I wish I could have learned more about the operation or management of different industries and businesses in school so that I could have an understanding of their structure. More student training programmes, or internship opportunities, would have also helped prepare me for the workforce by giving me a chance to work with others and develop leadership skills. Moreover, classes should have had more practical applications to better prepare us to work in the real world.
Name: Myfanwy Hughes
Background: A recent graduate in English Language and Linguistics from a UK university
How has your university education prepared you for your future job?
At the risk of sounding utterly cliché, I think everyone should live in at least one other country during their lifetime because it broadens their horizons. Every country’s educational system has their own merits and while I do think that the UK has some stellar universities, I’ve learned more from day-to-day living and working rather than studying. I absolutely love my degree, but I maintain that the most valuable part of university is learning to live independently and stand on your own feet.
Do you think the learning environment in Hong Kong has encouraged your creative thinking?
I have only ever studied at international schools, so I’m not familiar with the local state system. However, based on my 12 years of schooling in Hong Kong, I have always felt that there has been an emphasis on academic excellence rather than practical skills. I don’t believe that it’s a matter of a lack of focus on “skills for the future” that is a shortcoming of Hong Kong’s education system, but it’s more of a matter of boxing students into one stream of education that doesn’t allow them to gain real-life experience. Simply put, learning doesn’t stop outside a classroom.
How is the learning environment here different from the UK?
In Britain, there are opportunities to undertake vocational courses for specific jobs such as plumbing and electric installation, so young people are not limited to studying for academic qualifications. Apprenticeships are also popular as school leavers can earn while they learn, so they often work 30 hours per week and receive classroom learning.