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Hong Kong’s future workers aren’t learning the skills they need

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A changing world requires changing skills. Unfortunately for Hong Kong students, their education isn’t preparing them for the future as well as it should. An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index assessing how well education systems prepare students for the future ranked Hong Kong 14th, trailing countries like Singapore (5), Japan (7), and South Korea (12).

According to the EIU, the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, in order to be well prepared the workers of the future need interdisciplinary, creative, analytical, entrepreneurial, leadership, digital and technical skills, as well as global awareness and civic education.

“The crucial question is whether the world’s education systems are equipped to teach these skills,” the report states.

For Hong Kong, the answer is not really. Out of the three areas of focus – teaching environment, policy, and socio-economic environment – the city scored particularly low on education policy, coming in 22nd out of 35. In comparison, Singapore ranked first.

Not naming Hong Kong specifically, the report points out that academic high achievers from countries in East Asia can struggle in a Western university environment as they’ve focused on “head-down studying” and haven’t been taught the soft skills needed to form their own opinions, participate in seminars, and collaborate in multi-national project groups.

The city didn’t fare much better in the socio-economic environment category, ranking 21st. It’s redeeming factor is the actual teaching environment where it came in 6th overall, two places above Singapore. But without future-focused education policies, even the most effective teachers can’t achieve much.

“Younger generations face a significantly different world in their future working and personal lives,” the EIU report states. Factors such as globalisation, digital technology, and invironmental degradation will increasingly affect people’s lives, and many established jobs are set to disappear.

As such, education systems need to adopt new approaches that help students learn a suite of adaptable interpersonal, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and countries need to have a way of testing these.

“Education must not stop when students step out of the classroom. Teachers and parents need to equip them with the skills and attitudes to apply academic concepts to the outside world. They must see learning as an organic process, not one confined to traditional teaching environments,” the report concludes.

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