6.1 According to the findings from the public engagement activities, a number of major issues/problems were identified. They are set out in the ensuing paragraphs.
Definition of VET
6.2 At present, there is no clear definition of VET under the relevant government policy in Hong Kong. The common perception among some stakeholders such as students, parents and teachers is that VET refers to vocationally-oriented programmes with the education and training of practical skills specific for certain industries. Besides, VET is commonly perceived as education and training leading to relatively lower qualifications at or below sub-degree level, for instance, higher diploma programmes21, apprenticeship programmes and some diploma/certificate programmes with a high percentage of the curriculum consisting of specialised contents (e.g. learning related to disciplines, professions and vocational skills), etc.
However, in fact, some degree level programmes in the higher education sector are also vocationally or professionally-oriented, for example, those in the disciplines of nursing, engineering, etc.
6.3 Some people may also have the traditional perception that VET leads to
“blue collar” work in productive enterprises, while non-VET leads to “white collar”
employment in offices. However, in the present Information Age, both the nature of work and preparation for work have undergone significant changes. It would no longer be possible to clearly classify many industries as “white collar” or “blue collar”.
6.4 In considering a definition for VET, reference could be made to German and Swiss vocational education systems. In Germany, VET covers a wide range of disciplines, from office clerk to mechatronics or biology technician to process engineer.
In Switzerland, the terms VET and professional education and training (“PET”) are
21 In higher diploma (“HD”) programmes, at least 60% of the curriculum consists of specialised content in specific disciplines, professions or vocational skills. On the other hand, in associate degree programmes, at least 60% of curriculum consists of generic contents (e.g. language, information technology, general education, etc).
used – VET refers to basic vocational education at upper secondary level while PET refers to vocational education at tertiary level. It should however be noted that in Switzerland, they have established post-secondary institutions called the universities of applied sciences and PET colleges which are separated from the general universities.
6.5 Reference may also be made to the definitions adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (“UNESCO”) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”). In UNESCO, the term “technical vocational education and training” is used and it is defined as a comprehensive term referring to those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education –
(a) the study of technologies and related sciences; and
(b) the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding, knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life22.
6.6 In “OECD (2014), Skills Beyond School: Synthesis Report, OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training, OECD Publishing” 23, “post-secondary vocational education and training” includes the programmes and qualifications that prepare students for particular occupations or careers that are beyond upper secondary level, and that would normally require at least six months full-time preparation. Higher level vocational qualifications, including professional bachelor degrees, are included in this definition. Moreover, it was mentioned in the aforementioned publication that “professional education and training” should become the internationally accepted description for substantial post-secondary vocational programmes (equivalent to more than six months full-time).
23 The report can be accessed at:
Perception Towards VET
6.7 From the survey, 61% of secondary school students, 78% of their parents and 76% of VET students/graduates considered that VET has a fairly positive or very positive image in Hong Kong, but only 37% of secondary school teachers believed so24. Nonetheless, only 4% of secondary school teachers would not advise their students to pursue VET (versus 34% of secondary school students would not consider pursing VET programmes, and 28% of their parents would not advise their children to pursue the same). The major reason for students/parents not to pursue/advise their children to pursue VET is because the students’ academic results allow them to pursue other articulation pathways. From the focus group interviews, it is also noted that VET is generally perceived by secondary school students and their parents as a second choice among articulation options, and is for those not eligible for university education.
VET-related Information and Career and Life Planning
6.8 The Task Force’s survey indicated that only 51% of the upper secondary school students were aware of VET-related articulation and career options (versus 72% of parents and 82% of secondary school teachers). Enhancement of students’
knowledge about VET through wider publicity as well as career guidance is necessary in order to promote VET as a valued choice among secondary school students. There are also views during the public engagement activities that parents were not aware of the latest developments in different industries and the progression pathways, hence they were unable to guide their children in choosing the right path for further studies.
Involvement of Industries
6.9 The success of apprenticeship training in Germany and Switzerland, for example, lies on the heavy involvement and investment of employers in addition to the structured approach to entry into a profession/guild. However, such tradition and culture have yet to be developed among employers in Hong Kong in general. Besides,
24 On the other hand, while only 21% of secondary school students, 9% of their parents and 17% of VET students/graduates considered that VET had a fairly negative or very negative image in Hong Kong, as many as 57% of secondary school teachers thought so.
closer collaboration between VET providers and employers in delivering VET is required under a dual track learning model (i.e. combining classroom study with the practical know-how gained in the workplace) in that there should be a close relationship between what the apprentices have learned at VET providers and the work to be carried out in the workplace. Competitive remuneration package after completion of VET training as well as clear progression pathways are also key determining factors for youngsters to decide whether to pursue VET.
Involvement of Government
6.10 Overall speaking, stakeholders consider that the government has an indispensable role in promoting VET, as it would be more convincing to the general public for the government, rather than individual VET providers, to promote wider acceptance and recognition of VET. Financial support from the government is also important during the process.
6.11 With the issues/problems identified, the Task Force considers that the long term vision is to change the entrenched perception of VET being a second choice.
To this end, it recommends a three-pronged strategy that covers the following –