Sunday, September 18, 2011

3-3-4 in 2012

The education systems in Hong Kong is undergoing a major change.  Currently it is a 5-2-3 system: 5 years of secondary school, 2 years of pre-university courses, and then 3 years of university leading to Bachelors degrees.   It is now transitioning into 3-3-4: 3 years of junior secondary, 3 years of senior secondary, and 4 years of university.  In 2012, there will be two batches of students entering university: (1) the last batch of those taking the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations (ALE), who will be entering 3 year degree programs, and (2) the first batch of those taking the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE), who will be entering the 4-year degree programs. 

The 4-year programs are quite different from the 3-year programs.  There are two sets of places reserved for the two batches of students, with different entry requirements, obviously.  They are not competing for the same sets of places, but some of the students and their parents are not full aware of that; consequently there is a lot of confusion and anxiety.  Our university is holding 2 separate information days for applicants over this weekend: Saturday is for DSE, and Sunday for ALE.  We have to do more work, but it is better for the students.  

This is just the beginning of the big crunch.  From 2012 to 2015, there will be an additional batch of ~3,000 students on campus, in addition to the ~10,000 full time students (and another ~10,000 part-time students).  We will need more class rooms, teachers, dormitories, canteens, everything. 

These are just the logistical, quantitative challenges.   We are also moving towards more broad-based admissions.  Many students can be admitted to a broad discipline, say Computing.  Then they can take 1, 2 or even 3 years to decide whether they wish to major in Information Technology (more technical, hardware related stuff), Computing (mainly software design and development), or Enterprise Information Systems (more business oriented).  We have to be much more flexible in the program design, and operation. 

On the other hand, the additional year also allows us to design unique and university-wide characteristics into our programs.  These include exciting introductions to the broad discipline, personal development and leadership, and learning through services.  I am happy (and anxious) to have a role to play in these new challenges. 

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