Sustainability of Massification in East Asian Higher Education: Community Colleges in Hong Kong in Retrospect and Prospects
While higher education can serve the instrumental role in global knowledge-based economy with financial risks, the case of Hong Kong reflects that global discourse is potent in regard to generating government rhetoric of lifelong learning for “enterprising” oneself for the knowledge-based twenty-first century. This chapter presents the empirical data to illustrate how educated youths respond to the global discourse and government rhetoric of lifelong learning, namely, by continuing their study with community colleges in Hong Kong. It will discuss the conceptual framework for understanding the scenarios for sustainability in Asian higher education. Yet in critical perspectives, this chapter will analyze the way in which the Hong Kong’s community colleges are governed and the imperative of family social class in making sense of the study pathways through community college. The notion of “knowledge economy” will be put into critical examination, and we will consider the alignment problems between employment market and higher education massification in Hong Kong as a postindustrial Asian city. This chapter finds that the sustainability of Hong Kong higher education massification is not the core issue facing the higher education sector itself. Without a proactive direction and sense of progress, the sector tends to maintain its massified segment intact without making significant changes in inputs and costs. While it is responsive to the public consciousness and demands for accountability, the massified sector, as second tier of the system, continues to make forward “progress” but without a clear vision and strategies for significant improvement, fit for purpose, or pursuit of enhanced educational equality. The Hong Kong higher education sector, alongside the public consciousness, shares the consensual value that the way in which its mass higher education segment will be sustained should be left to the market forces to determine. What always matters most is the figure of student enrollment as it determines whether the colleges can sustain themselves in the competitive education market through a viable financial model. Economic climate, ability to respond to employment market and global economy challenges, technology, level of political and social stability, and more importantly demography are the determinants of the progress which the massified segment of Hong Kong higher education can make in the decades to come.
KeywordsHigher education massification Sustainibilty of massification East asian higher education Community colleges Graduate employment Social class
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