The new four-year higher education system to be introduced in 2012 offers a lot of scope for institutions to expand their offering to produce all-round graduates, who are equally at home in the world and in their profession. But, while the focus of the new curriculum is similar across each institution, their objectives are slightly different.
The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) has set very high standards to achieve a broad scope of development for their students and nurture them into world players, in line with Hong Kong's role in the region.
"We place great emphasis on cultivating our students to become global citizens. Benefiting from our strong links with leading institutions in the region, the institute positions itself at the forefront among universities in Hong Kong to provide diversified and vast opportunities for our students to become involved in international and regional academic events and research studies," says Professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho, HKIEd associate vice-president (external relations).
A tri-lingual policy is attempting to address oft-heard complaints about declining standards of English, and to prepare students for a role in the rise of China as well.
"Students will be expected to attain a reasonably high level of English and Mandarin, in addition to their native Cantonese. Language requirements will be quite high, benchmarked against the widely recognised IELTS test in English and the Putonghua Shuiping Ceshi in Chinese," says Professor John Lee Chi-kin, the institute's vice-president (academic).
To become global citizens, students will be encouraged to attend academic exchange programmes that will contribute to their language proficiency and cultural understanding. The university will arrange immersion programmes either in China or an English-speaking country, and internships will also be offered on the mainland and beyond.
Collaborative programmes still under negotiation will give students the opportunity to complete half of their programme at HKIEd and the other half at a partnering overseas institution, receiving dual degrees from the two institutions upon completion of their studies.
To help with travel expenses, each undergraduate student in programmes funded by the University Grants Committee will be entitled to receive financial assistance worth HK$10,000 starting from the 2012-2013 academic year.
In addition, the reinvigorated general education programme will offer a wide breadth of courses, and will be framed by a foundation course at the beginning, and a consolidation course at the end, to enable students to have a coherent learning experience.
"At HKIEd, the [new] undergraduate curriculum integrates a total learning experience to nurture leaders and lifelong learners who are professionally competent, tri-lingual, intellectually active, socially caring, globally aware, and morally responsible," says Lee.
While the duration of bachelor of art and bachelor of social science programmes will increase from three years to four, the duration of the bachelor of education (BEd) programme will be extended to five years from four.
"The five-year BEd programmes will incorporate elements of professional ethics and inclusive education [for special-needs students] in various courses, to prepare a new generation of teachers for the new development of education," says Lee.
In addition, the institute is expanding its headcount and is seeking three chair professors and professors to increase their numbers to 40.