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close this bookPopularization of Science and Technology - What Informal and Non-formal Education Can Do? (Faculty of Education,University of Hong Kong - UNESCO, 1989, 210 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction - Cheng Kai Ming
View the documentOpen Speech - Yeung Kai-yin, Secretary for Education and Manpower, Hong Kong Government
View the documentKey-note Speech: Educational challenges in the age of science and technology - Philip H. Coombs
View the documentConference Report
Open this folder and view contentsPapers presented at the Conference:
Open this folder and view contentsCountry Papers
View the documentAppendix: List of participants

Open Speech - Yeung Kai-yin, Secretary for Education and Manpower, Hong Kong Government

Introduction

I think I am speaking for all of us from Hong Kong when I say that we feel proud at having been chosen by UNESCO as the location for this conference. It is gratifying to know that Hong Kong is not just a shopper’s paradise and that we act as a kind of social laboratory for the absorption and localisation of modern technologies. Speaking for myself, I feel honoured to have been invited to open this conference and I would like to begin by thanking Dr Paul Morris and his fellow organisers.

This conference addresses the question of what education, both formal and non-formal, can do to popularise science and technology. The underlying belief is that science and technology, if properly harnessed, can be an important determinant of growth and development. But there is the underlying suspicion that little is being done in curriculum development, never mind implementation, to achieve this important goal, and that on-the -job training and in-service learning are more effective tools. I propose to address this question by presenting briefly the Hong Kong experience and I hope, by the end of my presentation, to have demonstrated that the popularisation of science and technology in order to facilitate growth requires and affects both education and training.

Existing education and manpower training arrangements

Education

Our school system now provides nine years of free and compulsory general education, from Primary 1 to Secondary 3. This provision is being enlarged so that by 1991-92 senior secondary education up to Secondary 5 Will be available for all Secondary 3 leavers who want it. Within the formal curriculum, some introduction to science and technology is provided at primary level. At junior secondary level, they form part of a common core of subjects which aims to give students, amongst other things, a basic grounding in the principles of the sciences and some ideas of their practical application. At senior secondary level, some degree of streaming begins, and science and technology are offered as optional subjects. In respect of technology, subjects such as Art and Design, Design and Technology and Engineering Science, aim to inculcate in the more mature mind an interest in solving practical and technical problems, as well as a better understanding of the relevance of recent technological advances to the development of our society. Throughout our school system, the formal curriculum is complemented by extracurricular activities including exhibitions, project competitions, educational visits and field work. Thus, at the end of Secondary 5, the system will have produced school leavers in their mid to late teens with varying degrees of knowledge and interest in the sciences, but certainly with a long-established awareness of the importance of technology. I should emphasize that we are not under the illusion that our school curriculum can keep up with the very latest technological advances even though it is reviewed regularly. Clearly no formal education can do that. But what we can do is to add to the traditional “basics” of language, mathematics, civic responsibility etc., the new “basic” of technological and scientific literacy. This is then built on by individual students, through vocational training, non-formal or open education and working experience, to meet the technological needs of their own careers.

Manpower training

In other words, as in any urban, industrialised society, our secondary school leavers are the raw material for our workforce. Our Vocational Training Council (VTC) and two other organisations now provide the necessary pre-employment training for school leavers to become workers at the level of skilled operatives, craftsmen and technicians. These organisations also provide in-service training in the form of either an apprenticeship or a day-release or sandwich course. This training is made up partly of the technical education provided in eight technical institutes, and partly of skills training in industrial training centres. The capacity of the vocational training system1 is large. The number of technical education places provided at the VTC’s technical institutes is 65,000, while the industrial training centres of all three training authorities provide a further 30,000 places. The throughout of these training establishments is also formidable. Last year it exceeded 42,000 trained workers, of whom 10,000 were operatives, 16,700 were craftsmen and 15,700 were technicians2.

In all these endeavours, a close relationship exists between our industries and the VTC. Established under the Council are no fewer than 20 industrial training boards, to whom are appointed employers, employees, teachers and training staff. This network of consultative, planning and executive training boards is the most extensive and arguably the most effective form of dialogue between those who demand vocational training and those who supply it. It would be fair to say that the VTC and its sister training authorities are doing a first class job of work in meeting the requirements of our community.

Open and non-formal education

Finally, in considering how education and training promote scientific and technological skills, we must not forget the world of open education and distance learning. These relatively new means of education are likely to become more and more important to us in Hong Kong. This is not just because there is a frustrated demand for conventional tertiary education, although this no doubt accounts for the long queues for admission to our new Open Learning Institute. Rather it is because perhaps only open education is flexible enough to cater for the fast changing and multifarious needs of a sophisticated workforce. If conventional education supplies the critical “basics”, continuing education can supply the skills which may be useful today - but subject to revision tomorrow. Of course, many of our conventional vocational training courses also aim to do this. But I can fort see a pattern emerging whereby skills training is performed more and more outside the formal system. I will return to this point later.

Shifts in the economy: Implications for manpower development

I have reviewed favourably our initiatives in conventional education, vocational training and open education. Can we afford to be complacent? In a community such as ours - well known for its resilience, speed of adaptation to change and entrepreneurship - there never is any room for complacency. We share with the other Asian NIEs not only the honour but also the burden of being a successful economy. In order to survive we have to trade successfully with the rest of the world, and to be able to trade successfully our economy must remain highly competitive. So we must think hard and often about the directions in which different sectors of the economy are moving, and examine the implications for our training services.

A careful study of the performance of various sectors of the economy tells us that while the manufacturing sector has become leaner in terms of sized it has also become more efficient and sophisticated. With the opening up of China to foreign investment and industrial development in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift of low value-added, labour-intensive processes and production out of Hong Kong into China generally, and into Guangdong Province in particular. In addition to several tens of thousands of outward processing projects there are now several thousand joint venture factories in that province alone. Infrastructural support for these enterprises has had to come from Hong Kong, because Guangdong has been unable to provide it. This support takes the form of such “up-front” services as marketing, design and the supply of a variety of precision parts, components and mechanisms, and of such “rear-end” services as quality control, trade financing and shipping, Within Hong Kong, shifts in manufacturing are equally noticeable in the direction of mechanization, as a practical response to a persistently tight labour market, and in the production of parts, components and other semi-manufactures5, as a response to demand from our joint venture factories in China. Within the past three years the Hong Kong Productivity Council has created four additional laboratories, mainly for electronics and metalworking, to provide consultancy and bureau services to manufacturers seeking to improve their design and production.

The same study of the economy will also show that, within the service industries, there has also been a strong tendency to move out of labour-intensive operations as far as mechanisation, computerisation and networking will allow, and towards the achievement of higher value-added output. Thus it is not surprising that some of our most successful service industries are in the commercial, financial, transport, communications and hospitality sectors6, or that many of their operations are controlled by some of the most advanced computer and telecommunications systems in the world.

The implications of these developments in the economy for our manpower training services are far-reaching. While demand for manually skilled operatives is likely to remain stable or even to decline as more labour-intensive operations move into South China, demand for technicians, technologists and their services sector equivalents is likely to rise. The shifts that I have described are pointing clearly to the creation of more knowledge-intensive, more technology-based employment.

Thus, “brain drain” or not, there are now powerful arguments for increased spending on education, particularly at the tertiary level, and on vocational training - not to mention continuing education. As regards the challenge to the formal education system, we have established targets for increasing the provision of first year, first degree places, from about 8% of the 17 to 20 age group now to 11% in 1993-94 and to 14.5% by the end of the century. More important, within that provision, we are creating a third university - the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology - oriented towards science, technology, management and, not least, research and development. The university is expected to open in the autumn of 1991. This will all be expensive, and we shall have to make sure that we get value for money, the more so since our formal education system does not have to respond directly to market forces to survive.

The challenge to our existing manpower training arrangements poses a number of interesting problems. Unlike education, vocational training is a partnership between employers, who provide training through employment, and the Government, which provides training through technical education and practical instruction. As I said earlier, this partnership has worked well for many years in the training of workers at operative, craftsman and technician level and the training authorities are responding well to demand from our industries for certifiable levels of competence. But what if that partnership ceases to work properly?

Given a demand-led vocational training system, it is not surprising that little if anything is being done to provide training for technologists and technicians in those groups of disciplines that are perceived to be critical to the competitiveness of our industries but which are not yet extensively practised. Lest I am mistaken for a technology nut, let me hasten to add that I am not referring to “cutting edge” technologies, merely to those that are widely recognised as beneficial to our economy.

The sort of technologies that I think we must seek to learn and adapt to local use are those associated with mechanisation, the integration of automated design and production, the networking of computerised systems, and the technologies of productivity enhancement, sustained quality and value creation.

Training in new technologies

The question, that is: what kind of measure would best enable Hong Kong’s manpower to absorb and adapt these technologies? There are many W]10 would like the Government to emulate our Asian neighbours by creating at great expense a series of research and development establishments. I do not think there is an “ideal” regional model. But in seeking a form of training that would work in Hong Kong we must have regard to a number of factors. First, while many of our businesses set somewhat short-term horizons in their approach towards investment, they are more capable than the Government can ever be in making investment decisions, and this includes choosing the specific kinds of technology they wish to master. (Governments can be over-enthusiastic about a new “prestige” development of, worse, over-conservative. One thinks of the Duke of Wellington’s remark about steam locomotives - “I can see no reason to suppose that these machines will ever force themselves into general use”.) Second, precisely because many of our businesses are small they tend to lack the capability for sustained research and development, which is a hallmark of large business enterprises, especially the multinationals. Thus our industries will need help in finding sources of beneficial and appropriate technology. Third, we are concerned with technologies that are not yet being extensively applied in Hong Kong, but are being used successfully elsewhere.

Taking these three basic considerations into account, it seems to me that a training scheme that would work in Hong Kong would need to be created outside the framework of the training authorities’ technical education and practical instruction courses. This relates to what I said earlier about the future importance of non-f o rmal education in meeting modern training needs. Given that many of the technologies we are considering are not yet being applied extensively within Hong Kong, we must turn to the private sectors of those countries that are applying them, and seek to arrange training attachments for our technologists and technicians. Given, also, that many of our businesses are small, some degree of financial assistance towards the cost of having their managers sent and attached abroad would help to stimulate interest. But it would be entirely out of character for us to support specific kinds of technology and not others. Businesses must choose the technologies they want. As long as we are satisfied in our minds that a business knows what it wants when it comes forward with a proposal, we should be prepared to make available the financial and job placement assistance it requires. In short, it seems to me that the ingredients of a successful training scheme in new technologies are, first, a suitable placement agency to develop a network of training opportunities supported, secondly, by the resources of a training fund.

We have experimented with this approach, and I can say confidently that it works. Two years ago, our electronics industry decided that it must try to reduce its dependence on semiconductors designed and produced by overseas sources, and that it must seek to build up a capability for designing its own chips. In collaboration with the VTC, the Government ran an experimental scheme. It arranged with the leading semiconductor multinationals training in the design and application of customised chips for some 40 engineers. To date, of the 22 who have returned (the others are still undergoing training) 21 have rejoined their parent cornpanies. Investment in design and production of customised chips has grown substantially as a result, the most notable case being Motorola’s “Silicon Harbour” project, a billion dollar design and production plant in Tai Po Industrial Estate.

The experimental scheme has had an important but not entirely unexpected spin-off. Because it was seen to be succeeding, the electronic engineering departments of the universities and polytechnics lodged offers with the VTC to provide local extension courses in the design of customised chips, and there are early indications that as these courses mature they may be incorporated into the curriculum for degree work in electronic engineering.

The Government is now considering the introduction of a new training scheme to help technologists, technicians and, indeed, our teachers to acquire, absorb and adapt to local use the technologies the private sector wants. It is likely to emerge as a larger, more full-blooded version of the experimental project I have just described. We are exploring details with the VTC and I hope that a decision to proceed will soon be announced.

Conclusion

Earlier on I said that I would try to demonstrate that the popularisation of science and technology as a means of facilitating growth requires and affects both education and training. I think I have said enough to show that while formal education provides the foundation upon which less mature minds master the principles of science and begins to acquire an interest in their application, it is through specific programmes of vocational training that more mature minds learn and apply technologies. When it comes to new technologies - new in the sense that they are perceived to be beneficial and appropriate, and in the sense that they are not yet fully reflected in current employment - our administrative systems must be sufficiently flexible to enable our trainees to get out of the conventional curriculum, the lecture room and the workshop, and into the laboratories and workplaces of those businesses that are practising those technologies. It is through human resource development programmes such as this, taken together with the provision of adequate infrastructural support, that a society creates a healthy scientific and technological “culture”. That “culture” in turn influences both investment and education.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong and UNESCO on their initiative in organising what promises to be a highly stimulating conference. I know that we Will all benefit from the proceedings. I have great pleasure in declaring the conference open.

Notes:

1 Including that of the VTC, the Clothing Industry Training Authority and the Construction Industry Training Authority.

2 Sources: Vocational Training Council, Clothing Industry Training Authority and Construction Industry Training Authority in respect of provision of places in 1989-90 and output in 1988-89.

3 Manufacturing’s share of (%):


GDP

Employment


1980

23.8

42.6


1981

22.8

41.3


1982

20.7

38.8


1983

22.8

35.1


1984

24.1

36.5


1985

21.9

37.1


1986

22.

34.3


1987

22.1

34.3

4 Growth rates of (% p.a. in real terms):


Period

Domestic
export

Employment
in manufacturing

Domestic export
per worker


1966-78

9.9

7.4

2.3


1978-83

10.8

0.7

10.0


1983-87

12.

60.4

12.2

5 Examples of relatively new investment in the linkage industries from factories in the industrial estates:


Industry

Production


Electronics

Integrated circuits (ASICs)
Silicon wafer chips
Liquid crystal display devices
Mass laminates


Metals

Specialised building materials
Press plates
Plastic injection moulding machines
Steel reinforced concrete piles
Auto exhaust systems
Photoconductive drums
Moulds and dies
Welded steel popes
Micro-motors
Aluminium sheets and strips in coils
Pumps
Steel slip form jacking units
Metal safes and vault doors


Chemicals

Polystyrene
ABS compounding
High purity salts
Printing ink and coatings
Special glasses
Industrial and medical gases
Pharmaceutical intermediates

6 Contribution to GDP (%) by economic sectors:


Year

Manufacturing

Wholesale, retail
import/export trades,
restaurants & hotel

Financing insurance,
real estate &
business services



(%)

(%)

(%)


1980

23.8

20.4

22.8


1981

22.8

19.5

23.8


1982

20.7

19.1

22.6


1983

22.8

22.2

17.9


1984

24.1

21.8

15.9


1985

21.9

21.3

16.3


1986

22.3

21.3

17.3


1987

22.1

23.2

18.4