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Dispatches from the 2013 APAIE Conference in Hong Kong

March 14, 2013

Hong Kong

There’s nothing like beating jet lag after a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles-San Francisco-Hong Kong, with a ride on the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island first thing in the morning for a meeting. It actually proved to be a relaxing way to get a start on the next two weeks as Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC and I make our way through Hong Kong at the APAIE Conference and then onto Tokyo, Japan, for a continuation of our discussions on the 2+2 model of US community colleges and universities and importance of international credential evaluations.

We met up with Angel Lau, Senior Advisor with Education USA, a service of the US State Department, at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong. Ms. Lau had arranged for us to meet with Ms. Ellie Tang, Higher Education Adviser at West Island School, a multi-ethnic international school funded both privately and by government offering Grade 6 to 12 lower and upper secondary education. We learned that WIS offers secondary curriculum intended for the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the Business and Technical Education Council (BTEC) International Diploma. Ms. Tang’s main concern was to help U.S. colleges and universities have a better understanding of the BTEC qualifications and their equivalence to the British General Certificate of Education Advance Levels. Ms. Tang was happy to learn that it is in fact through the actual credential evaluation process that U.S. colleges and universities will learn of the approximate educational equivalence of the BTEC qualification.

Our next meeting began with a lunch hosted by Mr. Peter P.T. Cheung, Secretary-General of the Federation for Self-Financing Tertiary Education (FSTE). We were joined by two members of the Federation: Professor T.S. Chan, Associate VP of Lingnan University and Professor Reggie Kwan, President of Caritas Institute of Higher Education, as well as Ms. Dorothy Hon, Senior Executive Officer (Projects) at the Federation. Both Professors Chan and Kwan shared with us their own personal experiences as international students at U.S. universities during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Professor Kwan, a graduate of Montana State University spoke fondly of his undergraduate and graduate years and his love of nature and American football. Professor Chan’s academic experience began at Whittier College in California and continued onto the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Our hosts all stressed the value of studying abroad and wished to see the same pathway opened for their students. They saw the 2+2 model as a cost effective approach to access U.S. higher education. We later presented the 2+2 model with an overview of the international credential evaluation process at a workshop hosted by FSTE to several of its institutional members. Our presentation was well received helping clarify some of the myths the attendees had about U.S. community colleges. The concept that students in the U.S. can complete two years of general education at the community colleges for a fraction of the cost of what it would be at a four-year institution and then transfer to a university to complete the remainder of their undergraduate education for the Bachelor’s degree is contrary to their counter parts known as “self-financed tertiary institutions” in Hong Kong. “Self-financed,” means that these institutions charge tuition that are, in fact, higher than fees charged by the universities. These self-financed tertiary institutions are seen as a last resort option for those unable to enter the university system with little upward mobility. Unlike the U.S. community colleges, completion of studies at the self-financed institutions in Hong Kong does not guarantee transfer credit to university degree programs. Seeing that Hong Kong students can look at the U.S. community colleges to further their education at the university level as an alternative is beginning to be seen as a viable option.

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a walk through the Night Market in Kowloon, Stanley Market, Victoria Peak (for a magnificent panoramic view of the HK skyline), and the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. I’m happy that I had the weekend in between meetings and the start of the APAIE Conference to do some sightseeing before transferring to the conference hotel near the convention center miles and miles away from the city center.

At the conference, I served on a panel with Dr. Reza Hoshmand of Hong Kong Baptist University, Zepur Solakian, and Angel Lau (EducationUSA) discussing the 2+2 model and seeing how through Dr. Hoshmand’s efforts the 2+2 model has been implemented at HK Baptist University. We presented our session in the form of a round-table discussion and heard from attending colleagues from Australia, Poland, China, and Canada. Clearly, the U.S. is unique in its 2+2 model and making access to four-year universities possible through the community college route.

A walk through APAIE’s Exhibit Hall brought me in direct contact with the many Asian universities ACEI has been receiving transcripts from for evaluation. It has been a wonderful experience connecting with universities from S. Korea, Japan, Thailand, and China, to name a few.

Friday, March 15th marks my last day in Hong Kong. I’m scheduled for a site visit to the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I’ve had an amazing time in Hong Kong and at the conference. I look forward to continuing the exchange of ideas at the next APAIE Conference in 2014 to be held in Seoul, Korea.

I leave for Japan this Saturday for another round of meetings with educators. Stay tuned for news of my visit to Tokyo in next week’s blog!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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