SCMP Saturday, July 1, 2000

Graduates can do better, say bosses


Employers say there is room for improvement in the language, analytical and problem-solving skills of university graduates, according to a survey.

On a scale of one to five, bosses gave an average of 3.38 in English-language proficiency and 3.26 in analytical and problem-solving abilities, said the survey, which polled employers of 2,017 graduates from 1998.

A score of three meant performance in an area "generally meets the employer's required standard", while a score of five meant "always exceeds the standard".

Graduates scored below four in general in all eight aspects covered: Chinese-language proficiency, English-language proficiency, numerical competence, information technology literacy, analytical and problem-solving abilities, work attitude, inter-personal skills and management skills.

Graduates' proficiency in Putonghua was rated the least satisfactory, with an average of only 2.77 given by employers. On creativity, they scored an average of 3.07. Employers are also unhappy with new entrants' management and leadership skills, giving them an average of 2.92 and 2.95 respectively. Information technology literacy was the most impressive area, with a score of 3.62, while work attitude rated 3.57 on average.

"In general, employers are quite satisfied with our graduates, although not absolutely happy with all aspects," said outgoing Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping. "The survey has cleared up the wrong impression that our graduates have a bad attitude to work, but we accept there is room for improvement in their analytical and problem-solving skills. That's why we're dedicated to pushing education reforms, as our traditional education has put too much emphasis on rote-learning, examinations and a rigid curriculum. It's too text-book oriented," he said.

Some employers polled have suggested language tests be required before students are admitted to university and that better language training be provided as early as primary or secondary school.

Henry Wai Wing-kun, deputy registrar for the University of Hong Kong, said: "I think the graduates are doing quite well by just meeting employers' expectations. We're aware that our students may lack some creativity and that's why we're moving to problem-based learning." Michael Tien Puk-sun, chairman of clothing retailer G2000 Group and Education Commission member, said: "Their work ethic is what concerns me most. They just look at the pay and the status rather than long-term self-development. No one has the patience to become a specialist any more. They are just jacks-of-all-trades and put net worth over everything else."