As technology disrupts the traditional workplace and creates new jobs, education is expected to prepare young people to enter a dynamic digital workplace. Careers education has therefore taken on unprecedented importance. Is Hong Kong doing enough? And what is the key to a quality careers education?
Hong Kong's government has placed great emphasis on careers education by pumping financial resources into schools since the 2014/15 school year. At around HK$600,000 (US$76,660) per school for 2019/2020, the Career and Life Planning Grant amounts to a hefty sum, compared to the one-off grant of HK$200,000 to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and activities in secondary schools.
However, abundant financial resources do not necessarily translate into quality careers education. Local studies show that many young people do not find their schools' career guidance helpful in making the leap from school to work. Hong Kong is missing a key piece of the puzzle: time. Teachers and students in examination-centric Hong Kong already have a lot on their plate.
Another alternative is to establish statutory frameworks with clear career-education provision standards. In Denmark, Finland, Austria and Singapore, career education programmes are a mandatory part of national curriculums, with Finland and Austria mandating more than 30 hours of career education each year for all students in grades 7-9.
Another problem in Hong Kong is the lack of expertise in careers education. Teachers are rarely specialists on the job market and it is challenging for them to acquire up-to-date information. The government should help schools to link up with different industry experts and career professionals.
In the fast-changing world of animation production, for example, technology in recent years (such as augmented reality, virtual reality and 360-degree video technology) have created new jobs and changed the production pipeline. Keeping up with the latest industry trends is crucial for teachers and students to understand how technology advancements are shaping society.
In Singapore, Britain, Denmark and Canada, for example, career education begins in primary school with different emphasis at various stages of children's development. In Hong Kong, the Career and Life Planning Grant is only received by secondary schools. It is worth considering initiating a programme of career education at an earlier age, too.
While other education systems around the world are experimenting with the best ways to deliver such career education programmes - either integrated or as a stand-alone subject - it seems that the Hong Kong government is neither providing the necessary learning capacity nor the professional expertise. Moreover, it is failing to provide career education to our children at an early developmental stage.
This leaves our youth disoriented about their future. With their ability to make informed career decisions crippled, our next generation is struggling to be ready for the future. Launching the Life Planning Information website was a good start, but officials should not stop there.
The government still has some serious thinking to do about giving space back to our young people to reimagine their future in a world that is fast evolving.
Renee Ho is a researcher for education and youth at Our Hong Kong Foundation, where Serena Chow is an assistant researcher for education and youth
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