COVID-19 is inevitably a catalyst for education change. The education sector is facing an epoch-making revolution. From face-to-face learning to online learning, it changes in a split second. We are now facing a drastic and influential transformation in the education industry all around the globe. We must keep abreast of the latest developments not because we need to become pioneers, but just not to become laggers.
The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has seen rapid development under the advancement of a national policy. With a population of 86 million and a GDP of $1.6 trillion, or 12 percent of China’s GDP, it is destined to become Asia’s leading metropolis. The area is not only one of the most vibrant in Asia but also ready to become a world-class city cluster. The GBA economy is underpinned by technological innovation and high-tech manufacturing, and supported by a large volume of international financing and investment activities. As such, it has attracted corporations and talents from around the world. In turn, this has created a huge demand for future-ready education.
This situation poses an urgent question to the government, the business community and the broader society — how can the education sector meet the demand for talent through transformation and innovation? Hong Kong must exploit its geographical-proximity advantage by stepping up efforts to collaborate and exchange education resources with the education sector in other GBA cities to create a win-win situation. Hong Kong can benefit from the collaboration in at least two areas: the professional development of teachers, and the development of the edtech industry.
The GBA provides such an opportunity, not just because of the expanded population and number of schools in the region, but also because of the opportunity to collaborate and jointly develop platforms with more advanced technology companies in the region
First, educators today are most concerned about imparting our students with new skills and competitiveness in the workplace of a digital society. For a start, they should emphasize computational thinking and artificial-intelligence education. Accordingly, Hong Kong Education City (EdCity) launched the Go AI Scheme last year to promote AI education by assisting more secondary and primary schools with incorporating AI into their teaching, the success of which relies on three factors; namely, technology, pedagogy and contents, which are all new to schools.
Unlike other traditional subjects like language and science, which Hong Kong can develop on its own, new and advanced technology topics to be introduced to schools require a large team of curriculum experts, sophisticated learning platforms, and a much larger number of schools to participate and give their input and thus to develop proven pedagogy. Pedagogy, which relies on the professionalism of teachers, is always the key success factor. Despite the differences in different education systems, there are common needs in teacher training and the development of best practices and pedagogies. Based on worldwide experience in education transformation, the most effective professional development for teachers to venture into new areas is not classroom training but creating a large community of practice for sharing and collaboration. The GBA provides the needed environment with a sufficiently large number of diversified schools and educational research institutions as well as technology companies to create synergic effect for best results.
Second, the GBA can help to expand the edtech industry in Hong Kong, which is an indispensable part of the education ecosystem. It is a common belief that, similar to how smartphones have changed the way people communicate, successful edtech products can change the way we teach and learn.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shortened the time for governments, educationists, technologists and parents all over the world to recognize the importance of edtech. While curriculum and contents are unique to different places, technology is common and can be scaled. For example, the applications of virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, adaptive learning, AI-assisted assessment, immersive learning with augmented reality and virtual reality, etc., all require research and development of core technologies and integration of many different technologies, and the overall success of the solution will rely on the ability to scale up and scale out and with proven results.
“Winner takes all” is a common phenomenon in the technology sector. We can envisage that after some years, only a few platforms will be adopted by the majority of schools, and the large user base will help the platforms to continue to grow and revamp until they become the dominant players. So, the question is, how would Hong Kong companies, or specifically the edtech companies, stand in the future? In fact, Hong Kong has very strong education research teams and technology teams at universities. We have over 150 edtech companies just in the Cyberport. We have a good understanding of the international market and education systems. Our limitation and disadvantage are that the population of students and the size of the school system are small as compared with other cities. The economic values generated from Hong Kong schools alone cannot support megasized companies, so the ability for edtech companies to scale out to other cities becomes crucial.
The GBA provides such an opportunity, not just because of the expanded population and number of schools in the region, but also because of the opportunity to collaborate and jointly develop platforms with more advanced technology companies in the region. If Hong Kong companies stay within the Hong Kong market only, we might not be able to play a meaningful role in the future edtech market with only a few dominant players.
EdCity started the Learning and Teaching Expo back in 2010, which is now the biggest education expo in the region. Our vision is to connect educators, education service providers as well as edtech companies across the world. The 11th Learning and Teaching Expo featured the GBA Innovative Education Forum, bringing together scholars from leading educational institutions on the Chinese mainland and school leaders from K-12 for an in-depth sharing on the status and vision of innovative education in the GBA, and got everyone interested in joining the dialogue for further collaboration with the aim of taking edtech to the next level.
The author is executive director of Hong Kong Education City. He is committed to innovative education in Hong Kong and connecting pioneering educators in the world.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS