To meet the needs of the knowledge-based economy, the advent of technologies and the rapidly changing world, the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China established the Qualifications Framework (QF) and the associated Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) mechanism. RPL represents a form of validation of non-formal and informal learning under the QF, with an aim to enable workers of various backgrounds to receive formal recognition of the knowledge, skills and experience they have acquired.
Challenges and opportunities
To deal with the changing demands of the economy and sustain Hong Kong’s competitiveness, there is a need to have workers with higher education and skills and to upgrade the capability of the workforce in general. Formal education, which Hong Kong people have relied on traditionally for obtaining formal qualifications, can no longer be the sole way to serve these needs. A paradigm shift in learning and the provision of flexible pathways other than formal education are needed to promote continuing education and lifelong learning, so that individuals can be motivated for further training and engage effectively in highly skilled activities.
National standards, policy and framework activity
The Education and Manpower Bureau (currently known as the Education Bureau (EDB)) issued a public consultation paper on the establishment of the QF and its associated quality assurance mechanism in 2002. After extensive deliberation, the government officially launched the QF in 2008. One of the QF’s main policy objectives is to recognize qualifications through the RPL mechanism. The RPL mechanism recognizes workers’ existing skills, knowledge and work experience in relation to formal qualifications, allowing them to pursue their goals flexibly according to their own lifelong learning pathways.
The RPL mechanism has been launched for those industries that have set out their Specification of Competency Standards (SCS). SCSs identify the specific outcome standards required for different qualification levels. Employees having their RPL recognized formally may pursue further studies at different levels to obtain higher and wider qualifications.
Training providers may develop appropriate training programmes according to SCS. The programmes and related qualifications will be recognized under the QF if they are quality-assured by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ).
A Credit Accumulation and Transfer (CAT) system has also been developed to complement the QF, providing flexibility in learning to cater for individual needs. With a CAT system, learners can accumulate learning and training credits gained through various courses systematically, with a view to converting them.
The development of RPL under the QF promotes lifelong learning by providing an individual formal recognition of existing skills, knowledge and work experience for continuing education in support of sustainable manpower development.
Stakeholders and partners from various industries have supported and participated actively in the development of the HKQF and the RPL mechanism. Industries play a pivotal role in the process through participation in Industry Training Advisory Committees (ITACs), which are tasked to develop, maintain and update the SCS.
To ensure continued relevance of an SCS, the ITAC concerned must review and update the SCS regularly to keep abreast of the latest manpower requirements. The SCS is also flexible enough to accommodate both small and large companies and to meet the full range of the industry’s education and training needs.
The EDB has been assisting various industries to set up their ITACs in stages consisting of representatives from employers, employees, trade unions and relevant professional bodies.
Hong Kong Qualifications Framework. 2008. http://www.hkqf.gov.hk/
Education and Manpower Bureau. 2005. Policy Initiatives of the Education and Manpower Bureau on Manpower Training and Development. Documents submitted for the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower. LC Paper No. CB(2)655/04-05(01). http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr04-05/english/panels/mp/papers/mp0120cb2-655-2e.pdf
UNESCO. 2015. Hong Kong SAR China. Global inventory of regional and national qualifications frameworks. V II: national and regional cases. pp. 148-151. http://www.uil.unesco.org/fileadmin/keydocuments/LifelongLearning/en/Global%20Inventory%20of%20Regional%20and%20National%20Qualifications_v2.pdf
Source: UNESCO UIL