Motion on “Promoting the Development of Vocational Education and Nurturing Talents to Establish Multiple Pathways” (2022.05.25)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): In the 1970s and 1980s, vocational education was indeed quite prevalent in Hong Kong. However, given the northern migration of industries, coupled with the development of Hong Kong into a financial centre, the significant increase in university places and other factors, parents all want their children to go to university for better prospects. For this reason, vocational education has fallen out of favour and eventually declined, and Hong Kong’s industrial structure has tilted towards financial and professional services. As a result, the pathways for young people have become restricted whereas the opportunities for upward mobility have gradually diminished, and Hong Kong’s economy has gradually lost its balance. For its sustainable development, Hong Kong has made great efforts to develop innovation and technology (“I&T”) industries in recent years, and re-industrialization centred around I&T is also bound to ensue. Therefore, it is now high time to promote vocational education to tie in with the future development of Hong Kong.

In fact, not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant. We should determine the direction of our children’s development with regard to their interests and abilities. As the saying goes, “one may distinguish himself in any trade”, but many parents find vocational education “second-class” and do not want their children to enrol in it. Therefore, to promote vocational education, the first and foremost task is to change the outdated concept and win public recognition.

To change such public opinions, it is best to draw reference from Germany’s vocational education. I propose the amendment today to share with Honourable colleagues the successful experience of Germany, which, I hope, the Government can learn from. I was the president of the Hong Kong branch of a German company for many years and often visited Germany for business, so I have a strong impression of its vocational education. Germany’s vocational education can be regarded as the number one of the world. Every year, about half of the students will opt for vocational education when they go to high school, which encompasses the famous dual-track system, under which students concurrently attend classes at school and receive training in enterprises. Given the time limit, I will not go into details today, but will focus the discussion on how to change the public’s perception of vocational education taking a leaf out of Germany’s book.

Traditionally, Germans have high regard for craftsmanship, and society has always given respect to apprentices-turned-skilled workers in various trades and industries. They have solid professional skills, and many earn more than university graduates. Professionalism is rigorously pursued in every trade. They are meticulous about their workwear, tools and work attitude, which leave people with an extremely professional impression. Many graduates have ascended to managerial positions subsequently, and one had even become the German Chancellor. They are well recognized in society and so parents are willing to send their children to such schools.

In fact, I suggested many years ago that Hong Kong’s construction industry learn from the German model, including strengthening the technical contents of various types of work, improving the working environment, dressing in professional workwear and obtaining professional licences. In recent years, the construction industry has gradually moved towards similar development, and now more young people have been attracted to the industry. Accordingly, development towards professionalization will definitely help Hong Kong’s vocational education win the recognition of society and, coupled with attractive wages, improve its “second-class” impression.

On the other hand, Germany’s vocational education also offers a ladder of further studies, which allow students to obtain degrees or even engineering qualifications and thus enjoy a very wide range of prospects. After completing vocational education at the high school level, students can enrol in a degree programme at a university of applied sciences. Even without going to university, students can still attain qualifications equivalent to a degree through obtaining professional certificates. Frankly speaking, if parents in Hong Kong knew that their children could also get a degree through vocational education programmes and become engineers or even more senior management personnel, they would no doubt look at vocational education in a different light. Hence, the promotion of vocational education in Hong Kong must be accompanied by the establishment of a ladder of further studies.

President, vocational education in Germany is in fact very complex and not all components are suitable for Hong Kong. However, I think the professionalization approach, ladder of further studies and other features are very suitable for Hong Kong, and absolutely merit a detailed study by the Government.

Thank you, President.

Scroll to Top