Picture: from left to right
1. Mr. WONG Chun-Shing, Eric, Principal of HKSYC&IA Wong Tai Shan Memorial School
2. Dr. YIP Chee-Tim, Principal of Pui Ching Middle School
3. Dr. CHAN Yee-Man, Anne, Principal of CCC Kwei Wah Shan College
4. Dr. CHENG Kin-Tak, Samuel, Principal of United Christian College (Kowloon East)
5. Mr. CHENG Kwong-Kuen, Anthony, Director of Irish International Education Center (IIEC)
6. Mr. Kam Chin, Chairman of Irish Chinese Society Galway
7. Mrs. Shelagh Nangla, Principal of Irish International Hotel and Catering School
8. Dr. TONG Chong-Sze, Secretary General of Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority
9. Dr. LAM Kin-Wah, Principal of Fukien Secondary School
10. Mr. CHONG Man-Ho, Principal of St. Francis Xavier’s School, TsuenWan
11. Ms Li Yee-ching, Magdalene, Manager of Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority
Testimonial by Dr. TONG Chong-Sze, Secretary General of Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority
First of all, I must thank the Irish Chinese Society Galway and the Irish International Education Centre of Hong Kong (IIEC) for hosting a most fruitful and rewarding tour of Ireland on 2-8 November 2014. The trip was an eye opener for me, and I was really impressed by the warmth of the Irish people, the beautiful landscapes, the vitality and the diversity of a tertiary education sector that is well supported by a committed government. And as a special and unexpected bonus, I had the most enjoyable and much appreciated company of a number of wise and knowledgeable principals whose invaluable sharing made the many long bus rides seem too short! The visit to the Cliff of Moher on the last day was the icing on a cake!
We visited many organizations including a diverse spectrum of post-secondary/ tertiary institutions and universities, ranging from historic universities with grand old libraries and awe-inspiring campuses that rival Oxford and Cambridge, to modern institutions with fascinating architectures and creative programmes that prepare students well for the 21st century. We also visited Quality & Qualification Ireland (QQI) as well as a side meeting with the State Examinations Commission (SEC), and I was very pleased to have the opportunities to make presentations on the New Academic Structure and the HKDSE which had been well received and hopefully will facilitate the institutions to optimize their fair admission policies.
We were also very impressed with the commitment of the Irish government to the development of a high-quality education hub: admission rate to 3rd level education is high at 65% and the completion rate of 3rd level education in the age group of 25-34 is over 50%. University tuition is around €10000-15000 per year, and total expenses including accommodation and daily living costs in a year is around €25000- 30000 which is comparatively lower than other developed English speaking countries. We noted that many institutions had already achieved internationalization rate of 15% or more, mostly from European countries or the North America, and that many institutions also paid particular emphasis on preparing their students for the workplace with vigorous placement programmes and exchange opportunities.
But for me, the special moment was the separate meeting with the Chief Executive Officer and Head of Examination & Assessment Division of SEC on 4 November 2014. Its scope of service bears a close resemblance to that of the Authority with one notable and enviable difference: SEC receives most of its funding from the Department of Education and Skills! All in all, it was a most interesting visit to the SEC, and we realized that we share many of the same set of challenges that examination boards all around the world face, and that we are all mutually supportive and most willing to share good practice and information.
Lastly, our description of the Ireland visit would not be complete without a mention of rainbows! Ireland is much bigger than Hong Kong but with only just 60% of our population! And the Irish treasure their national gift of beautiful sceneries and vast countrysides with a deliberate restriction on the height of buildings. The result is that everywhere we go, we enjoy lovely unrestricted views, and whenever there was a light shower, we see beautiful rainbows, not just a part of it, but the whole arch in magnificent colours! It was particularly warming to have been greeted in Ireland on our first day with such a rainbow, and also to bid farewell on our last day, again with another rainbow! Perhaps there IS a pot of gold waiting for all of us somewhere someday!
S. Tong 21 Nov 2014