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Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning in Hong Kong
Hong Kong, situated at the south-eastern tip of mainland China, is densely populated with a population of more than seven million in a total land area of 1,104 square kilometers. On July 1 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Under the Basic Law, the HKSAR exercises executive, legislative and independent judicial power. Over the past two decades, the Hong Kong economy has nearly tripled in size, with GDP growing at an average annual rate of 5% to 6% until 2007, then moderated to 2.4% in real terms in 2008. The moderation was mainly attributable to the slowdown in economic activities in the second half of 2008 brought about by the global financial tsunami. The GDP (at current market value) reached HK$1,633 billion in 2009. The service industries are the foundation of Hong Kong¡¦s economy. In 2008, over 92% of the 3.52 million working population was employed in the wholesale, retail, import and export, transport, storage, communications, financing, insurance, real estate, business services, and social and personal services.

The basic components of the Hong Kong lifelong learning system consist of two interconnected sub-systems; namely, conventional education and continuing education. These two sub-systems are integrated under a common qualifications framework. On top of the universal and compulsory primary and secondary education system, continuing education runs parallel to and fully articulated with formal education in offering both award and non-award bearing programmes. This system provides learners a flexible and multi-level education pathway with multiple entry and exit points. Continuing education is the mainstream of the lifelong education system in Hong Kong.

As Hong Kong is rapidly transforming itself into a knowledge-based society, the general public has embraced lifelong learning - not only as a way but also as a necessary part of life. According to the results from Surveys on the Demand for Continuing Education in Hong Kong, which was a series of surveys conducted by the School of Professional and Continuing Education of the University of Hong Kong in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 the overall participation rate in continuing education among Hong Kong citizens (aged 18 to 64) increased from 18% in 2002 to 28% in 2009. In 2009, there was an estimated 1.39 million continuing education learners in Hong Kong, an increase of about 160,000 compared with the 2007 survey result. The survey also showed that the much higher participation might be attributed largely to the Government's effort in supporting and promoting lifelong learning through various sponsorships and programmes, such as the Continuing Education Fund, Deduction of Tax Expenses of Self-Education, and the Non-means Tested Loan Scheme, among others.

In order to promote lifelong learning in Hong Kong, the Federation for Continuing Education in Tertiary Institutions (hereafter called FCE) was established in 1994. To date, the member institutions have increased to 14: the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong College of Technology, Caritas Adult & Higher Education Service, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Lingnan University, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Vocational Training Council, City University of Hong Kong, the Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Institute of Technology, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Hong Kong Institute of Education, and Po Leung Kuk (Associate member).

At present, the FCE plays a vital role in Hong Kong's education and human capital development. For example, FCE member institutions have made significant contributions to increasing the higher education participation rate of the relevant age group from 30% in 2000 to 53% in 2004 and then to 67% in 2008/09. Much of this has been achieved through the pioneering efforts by the FCE member institutions to introduce the self-financing Associate Degree, Higher Diploma and equivalent level programmes. Most importantly, the FCE has been very active in raising community awareness of the need for lifelong learning, and in reflecting how this need can be met through joint efforts of the Government, industry, the community, and continuing education providers. Over the years, the FCE has responded to the Government¡¦s initiative to widen the variety of opportunities for post-secondary and tertiary education.

Please explore the Chronicle list, as well as the other web links, concerning events and policies relating to continuing education and lifelong learning in Hong Kong.

Professor Enoch C.M. Young
Past Chairman (February 2002 ¡V March 2007)
The Federation for Continuing Education in Tertiary Institutions

Director Emeritus
HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education
The University of Hong Kong

February 2010

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