- Sponsored by Preface, the event was attended by 140 school principals and more than 30 representatives from companies and NGOs
- Forum was co-founded with the Education Bureau, the Hong Kong Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council and Hong Kong Principals’ Institute
While students think that learning new technology such as coding and artificial intelligence would be beneficial to them, some argue that it is not necessary to force such skills on every pupil.
At the inaugural Hong Kong Principals’ Forum hosted by the Post last Tuesday, four students debated whether new technology skills should be made compulsory in secondary schools.
The forum, sponsored by Preface, was attended by 140 school principals and more than 30 representatives from companies and NGOs. Co-founded with the Education Bureau, the Hong Kong Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council and Hong Kong Principals’ Institute, the event aimed to bring together various stakeholders to discuss the future of education in the city.
Students on the affirmative side of the argument discussed how technology is increasingly needed in everyday education that it seems no surprise that schools should incorporate the subject into their curriculums.
“Critical thinking subjects like maths and science became easier for me, as my skills picked up from coding transferred directly when I was solving physics equations or drawing straight line graphs,” said Vijay Narayanan of Island School, the opening speaker from the affirmative team.
While the opposition team acknowledged the good that technology could bring, they questioned whether it should be compulsory for all students.
“For technophobics, it might be a daunting task. Even for those who are tech savvy, learning such skills in a compulsory setting, with regular tuition and assessments, may dampen their interest,” said Clarisse Poon of St Pauls’ Co-educational College.
She added her own example of establishing a student-run organisation to illustrate how technology is not the most important thing in students’ education.
Shriya Srinivasan of Renaissance College Hong Kong said that teachers should not be forced to teach technology, something they might not be more proficient at than their students.
However, Wong Ka-yu of Diocesan Girls’ School refuted that, saying what actually should be in the curriculum is up to the teachers.
The spirited debate provided a student’s perspective of how they envision the incorporation of technology into education, a topic that is trending in Hong Kong.
Senior representatives of Hong Kong’s tech sector who attended the forum acknowledged a shortage of local skills. With the city facing fierce competition from rivals, it was struggling to fill vacancies ranging from developers to quantitative analysts, they said. But they maintain the brain drain can be reversed by developing home-grown talent.
Hong Kong is facing an exodus of talent following three years of strict Covid measures and the political uncertainty brought about by Beijing imposing the national security law on the city in 2020.
The situation has been worsened by the immigration pathways offered by countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia to local residents.
According to official data, the city’s workforce has decreased by about 140,000 over the past two years.
“Some of the start-ups that we invest in [have] already told me that in addition to the neighbouring city we always talk about, which is Singapore, that is very aggressive in attracting start-ups, there are also other countries in Asia and even in Europe approaching our Hong Kong talent to grow and move their business over there,” said Cindy Chow Lok Mei-ki, executive director of the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.
Chow added that it was important for the city to nurture home-grown talent through government funding to retain start-ups in the city.
Cynthia Wu, founding partner and chief operating officer of digital asset financial services platform Matrixport, added her firm faced difficulty hiring developers, quantitative analysts and digital marketers in the city. “There are a lot of enterprises like ours in similar industries looking for this kind of talent, but there is definitely a shortage in Hong Kong,” Wu said.
Estyn Chung Chi-ting, general manager of ride-hailing app Uber Hong Kong, said they were “a bit luckier” to be able to get the talent they wanted on board by thinking more broadly.
While the pandemic had left many people jobless, it also created a more fluid talent pool with the right skills they could tap, despite not having prior experience, he said. “We really look for the person exhibiting those abilities to solve problems and hustle,” he added.
Fanny Wong Sau-lai, head of human resources at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, said Hong Kong was in the right position to strike back.
But she stressed that planning should start from a young age. “From the recent policy address, we can see that the government is taking a lot more aggressive measures to acquire overseas talent,” she said, referring to the government’s plan to set up an office as well as a HK$30 billion co-investment fund.
Yet, industry players have told her of their failure to find suitable graduates with the right skills.
“That’s why I suggest we have more mechanisms to channel the industry’s feedback to educators and policymakers, so as to make this curriculum more tailored to the industry’s needs,” she said.
Undersecretary for Education Jeff Sze Chun-fai said that as a “free and open” city, it was normal for talent to flow inward and outwards.
“The chief executive in his policy address this year has unveiled some measures to ‘snatch’ talent, but we are also very focused on developing local talent,” Sze said.
He added the policy address also contained areas on youth development, with authorities pushing for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) education in both primary and secondary schools.