In this city, most people are trilingual and most lectures at universities are taught in English. Also, the city has the No.1 ranking university in Asia. You may think of China or India since they are developing so rapidly; however, the city is “Hong Kong!” Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and it is one and a half times the size of Seoul. Its index of internationalization is superior even though it is not that big. When you stroll across campuses in Hong Kong, you will see lots of people from various countries. Hong Kong is now the financial and educational hub of Asia.
◎Two Key Words Hidden in Globalization of Hong Kong
First, Hong Kong has globalized its system of education as to make whole city globalized. Two key words symbolize its education. The first is language and the second is students.
As mentioned before, most people in Hong Kong are trilingual. They can speak Cantonese the dialect of Chinese spoken in Canton and Hong Kong, Putonghua the native language of Beijing, and English. Unlike Korea, English is an official language in Hong Kong. Education First (EF) researched the average English ability of people in 60 non-English countries.1 According to findings, Hong Kong ranked 22nd, second in Asia followed by Singapore. It promoted its competitiveness. Since English is the most widely used language in the world, there are lots of advantages to being fluent in English. Wallace Lau, Principal Assistant Secretary for Education at the Education Bureau in Hong Kong, said, “Using English as a teaching method, local students improve their proficiency in English, which is helpful not only for their future career but also attracts more and more international students to study in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong has become an attractive city among the international students for study. A large number of international students from various cultures including Korea gather in Hong Kong. While the total number of Korean students studying abroad has declined from 252,000 to 227,000, the number of Korean students studying in Hong Kong has increased from 500 to 652 compared to last year.2 The result is to be expected when one looks at the huge support the Education Bureau of Hong Kong provides to international students. The government has also forced universities to double their quota for non-local students to 20%. Also, Hong Kong has invested $2.27 billion in government scholarships for international students and relaxed employment and immigration restrictions. These competitive advantages have made Hong Kong more attractive than other countries as the place to study. Moreover, after studying at a university in Hong Kong, the possibility to work in a company in Hong Kong increases. As more and more international students come to study in Hong Kong, the city has globalized itself more and more quickly.
◎HKUST, Be The Top in 20 Years
Ranking first in Asia, teaching in English, and requiring most professors to be from North America or to have a doctorate from North America has led to HKUST’s rise. Though HKUST (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) just opened its doors in 1991, over the last 20 years, it has developed greatly. Much effort was exhausted to be the top university, but the main reason lies hidden in its lectures. Since every lecture is in English, there are no language barriers for international students. At Sookmyung Women’s University, not many classes are taught in English, so international students endure hardships studying due to the Korean language. HKUST solved that problem by hiring professors fluent in English and selecting students who are also fluent in English. To adapt well to the English environment, the school provides programs so that students become familiar with English.
◎New Role for Hong Kong
Since Hong Kong is in a unique position as the gateway to China, more international companies operate an Asia branch out of Hong Kong. In the business world, some say “If we can succeed in Hong Kong, we can succeed in other Asian countries.” The role of Hong Kong as a bridge between Asia countries and other countries is significant, so Hong Kong still devotes itself to attracting intelligent students from various countries and provides them with an education in English.
* Special Thanks to The Government of the Hong Kong Education Bureau and HKUST for the interview.
1 On-line Joongangilbo, “Koreans Put 20,000 Time into English But Ability is Not That Well,” Joongangilbo, November 6, 2013
2 Kim Kihwan, “Cheap Tuition and High Employment Rate? The Number of Korean Students Studying in Hong Kong Increased Threefold,” Joongangilbo, February 4, 2014