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Universities in Hong Kong

Masters in education, public policy and Hong Kong studies meet challenges in a changing world

Programmes in information technology in education, as well as global studies and governance are equipping students with the skills to succeed in a brave new world

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 January, 2018, 11:05am

In a world in which new technological advances such as driverless cars and artificial intelligence are rapidly evolving, it is vital that our schools receive investment and expertise in educational technology if they are to remain competitive.

Teachers and parents need to keep their tech capabilities up to date to keep up with children and to teach them how to use technology productively and ethically, says Dr Daniel Churchill, associate professor, division of information and technology studies, faculty of education, University of Hong Kong (HKU).

“If you don’t develop our teachers and give us resources, students will see us as not relevant,” he says, adding that, “the problem is that the budget moves slower than technology”.

He also warns that rules need to be established and students need to develop critical literacy skills to handle their unsupervised use of technology and to be able to work out what is true and what is not.

“Not much has been done in this field,” he says.

The programme leader on HKU’s master of science in information technology in education (MITE) course, Churchill works closely with professionals who develop e-learning programmes and devices and design e-learning technologies, or who want to learn more about these specialist areas in order to develop in their career.

E-learning is widely used in multinational companies to provide induction and training to staff, communicate company goals and educate staff about health and safety issues. Universities have also started using “blended learning”, which blends face-to-face and e-learning in a course for better time management.

The problem is that the budget moves slower than technology
Dr Daniel Churchill, HKU

“Technology makes instruction more powerful, saves time and provides better resources,” Churchill says.

Students on his programme learn to design software, e-books and multimedia packages as well as virtual, augmented and mixed reality apps.

“Our programme is transdisciplinary, we are between science and humanities,” Churchill says.

MITE gets about 200 applications a year for its full-time, one-year programme and accepts about one quarter of those from mainland China. About 25 students also start on the 1.5- to two-year part-time programme each academic year.

Successful applicants for the full-time programme are graduates with a vision for further development and with career aspirations. Their first degree is often in business, journalism, communication or English language. They may plan to work for companies where the demand for e-learning is high – such as airlines, banks and technology companies, which offer staff or customer training packages in e-learning format – or for IT companies, e-learning development companies, or publishing houses. Some may plan to set up their own companies.

Part-time applicants are usually teachers – often in key positions – from schools or universities within Hong Kong, mostly international schools. Some are from industries that have a need for e-learning materials for training. They are more likely to concentrate on e-leadership, learning to develop policies, upgrade technology in their schools or companies and ensure professional development for their teaching staff about new technology in teaching.

The courses do not need high-level programming skills. They teach how to conceptualise solutions and lead multidisciplinary teams who can execute plans. They emphasise the key ideas that go into designing solutions, prototyping and leadership, according to Churchill.

“We are the only programme of this nature in Hong Kong. We embed our research findings across the curriculum and bring new paradigms and technology into the programme,” he says.

“There is an international teaching team with representatives [from] industries providing a good balance between academic research and skills and practical project management and development.” An external examiner programme – which involves bringing in highly respected professors to overview the teaching approaches every two years and to offer advice on how to improve the course – ensures that high standards are maintained. The course’s success speaks for itself, with alumni working for education authorities, universities, publishing houses, or in companies they have set up themselves. Part-time students have also enjoyed significant career advancement, becoming principals, lead technology coordinators and researchers.

With an intake of 20 to 30 mostly mainland Chinese students, the Education University of Hong Kong’s (EdUHK) master of social sciences in global and Hong Kong studies combines core elements of global and Hong Kong perspectives to study and understand Hong Kong.

“There are no comparable Hong Kong study courses which provide such a global perspective, that helps students go beyond their stereotypes of Hong Kong and locate [the city] in the larger scheme of global development,” says acting programme leader Dr Ho Wai-yip.

The programme’s interdisciplinary perspectives in sociology, politics, economics and international relations offer students an in-depth understanding of how global forces affect Hong Kong’s economy and what is likely be the long-term direction. This is useful for students preparing for a life in business.

The course also investigates the interrelationships between education and society in Hong Kong, covering a wide range of topics including education policy and reform, social inequality, diverse populations, higher education, globalisation, and economic, social and political development – including issues such as those surrounding localism and calls for Hong Kong’s independence.

“A lot of people see the rise of localism as a Hong Kong problem. This programme explains that although Hong Kong is unique, what we have today is also a problem in other societies,” Ho explains. “Putting Hong Kong in a global context, we train students to take a comparative perspective to re-examine [local cases] and see if any lessons can be learned from other comparable cases in the world.”

EdUHK’s master of public policy and governance (MPPG) programme admits around 40 students each year. The course has two areas of focus: public policy and governance, or social policy.

The degree prepares graduates to work in government, non-governmental organisations, media and the financial and higher education sectors.

Students whose future career entails the use of knowledge and skills in policy analysis, evaluation, communication and advocacy, organisational analysis, and human resource and financial management benefit the most from the MPPG.

“Governance and public management seems slightly more popular because most of our students from mainland China are interested in pursuing a career related to public/human resource management after their graduation,” says Dr Lina Vyas, assistant professor and programme leader.

Taught via a range of methods, such as course related field visits, internships and experience sharing sessions with in-service professionals, students learn to understand and analyse local and global policy issues, and formulate and assess policy options using comparative perspectives. They enhance their problem-solving and communications skills and learn through a multidisciplinary approach that helps them to recognise solutions to problems from several dimensions, thus producing a more effective output.

“Internships are offered in the second semester and arranged by the university in Hong Kong with some of our partners, including American International Assurance Company, Save the Children Hong Kong Limited, Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, Link Charitable Foundation Limited and The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group,” Vyas says.

The programme offers an orientation and helps students to develop their social networks. A dedicated programme team is ready to provide emotional and spiritual support to students. Vyas says both the academic and administrative staff develop personal relationships with students and are ready to offer advice, if needed.

This story appeared in the Professional Education Guide 2018 as: challenges of change