1:57 pm Blogroll, Hong Kong Education

hk overseas education

An SCMP report this week-end highlighted a small but critical problem with the government’s plans to make Hong Kong a regional education hub. Using the example of the Savannah College of Art and Design, a renowned US institution which has set up in Hong Kong and is currently admitting its first intake, the paper pointed out a typical incongruity of government policy. While making a big hoo-hah about opening up to the world and dominating the region, and in going so far as to award Savannah use of the old Kowloon Magistracy (thus killing two birds with one stone and appeasing the heritage lobby – our officials pat themselves on the back and give each other nods of approval), someone forgot to tell the Education Department that their friends and colleagues over at Immigration will not issue a student visa to anyone from the mainland, Macau or Taiwan who wishes to enroll in a degree course offered by an international institution in the city. They can however enroll in courses offered by local institutions.

There are several problems with this. For one, Hong Kong already suffers from a dearth of university places. Many Hong Kong students have to look overseas each year as they cannot find a place in their home town. Universities take time to develop, they can’t just shoot up overnight. So the only sensible way to increase the number of places available is to allow high quality overseas institutions to operate in the city, and surely they should be open to all-comers. In fact, logic suggests that mainland, Macanese and Taiwanese students should only be able to enroll in overseas courses, freeing up space in local institutions for Hong Kongers. But this would go against the spirit of true education which is to offer learning freely and openly to all. As a famous and oft quoted Prime Minister once said “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” He pointedly didn’t put any restrictions on those candle-lighters.

One would hope that the point of aiming to become an education hub is to benefit society at large, and surely even the most blinkered civil servant can see that degree students very commonly hang on after graduation in their city of study to find work and often to forge out a life and career. Once again, education suffers from government failing to give weight to the intangible benefits that it brings and Hong Kong as a whole misses the opportunity to bring still more talent within its borders. Furthermore, we miss the opportunity to showcase our talents worldwide as Hong Kong-educated students spread themselves around the globe. With the rest of the world realizing the huge potential and as yet minimally tapped resource of the PRC, our government remains lost in the past cowering in fear of the big bear.

By Danny Harrington

Co-founder of ITS Tutorial School

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