Eddie Ng, former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resources Management, is positive over the prospects for secondary school students under the new 3-3-4 academic structure, the theme of the forum hosted by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) Hong Kong, the local chapter of the global organisation of accountants.
"Students under the new 3-3-4 academic structure are superior to those who studied under the previous system in some sense and are better prepared to enter the job market," says Ng.
The new system emphasises self-learning, Ng says. Students are encouraged to explore and find out the answers on their own. They will hopefully develop problem-solving skills and become more independent and confident, he adds.
Liberal Studies will be the core subject of the new 3-3-4 academic system. The subject is divided into six modules.
"The module on globalisation helps students develop an international [perspective] and will be beneficial for students who work abroad," Ng says.
Dr Esther Ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Career Masters and Guidance Masters, agrees with Ng.
She says Liberal Studies can help develop students' critical thinking and power of expression.
Meanwhile, Vivian Lau, chief executive of Junior Achievement Hong Kong (JAHK), gives a thumbs up to Other Learning Experiences (OLE) - another key component of the 3-3-4 curriculum - as it helps adjust the students' mindset about life outside campus.
JAHK is a Hong Kong charity that partners with businesses and schools to provide free course material to students to help them prepare for work, start a business or learn about financial concepts.
Under 3-3-4 schools must set at least 15 per cent of the total lesson time to OLE, while students are encouraged to take part in its five areas - moral and civic education, aesthetic development, physical development, community service and career-related experiences.
"We are used to teaching teenagers that it is the process that matters, not the outcome. However, it will never be the case in the workplace. Bosses only value the outcome, not the process. Thus, OLE helps develop the mindset that regards process and outcome as both very important. It makes students realise that not only process matters but also the outcome," Lau says.
The first batch of students to study under 3-3-4 will graduate in 2012, such as those who are in Form 7 and will be taking an associate degree. Some of them may be ready to enter the job market by that time.
The three forum speakers advise students to develop a better attitude as they move into the workplace. The moderator, ACCA Hong Kong co-chairman Dr Simon Leung, says it often appears that employees are "hired on skills but fired on attitude". Thus, a positive attitude may help them keep their job.
Also at the forum, Brenda Lam, head of learning and development at ACCA, introduced Foundations in Accountancy (FIA), an entry-level programme that will be first examined in December this year. It consists of a suite of awards, including certificates, diplomas and qualifications.
According to Lam, the varied awards means employers can pick the qualification that meets their business needs, while students will have flexible entry points, with certification awarded at each level, making them more employable.