Lifelong learning for older persons in Hong Kong

  • Sze Sze, Stephanie HUI

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Lifelong learning (LL) has been widely regarded as one of the activities that can enhance well-being of the society and benefit older persons in terms of psychological, physical, mental, and cognitive well-being. In foreign countries like the Unites States of America, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Australia, and also China, LL among older persons had been developed successfully. Hong Kong, in contrast, has no systematic planning for the development of LL even though the aged population is increasing rapidly. This research aims at constructing a LL model for older persons in Hong Kong. The theoretical framework of study focused on figuring out the breaches between satisfactory models proposed by older persons and the existing lifelong learning model in Hong Kong.

Interview survey and documentary study have been employed in this study. Interview survey was carried out from March to April of 2005 in order to understand older persons’ expectations towards LL. A questionnaire consisting of 39 big items was constructed. The author successfully interviewed 54 out of the 60 older persons originally intended, including 31 female and 23 male. The samples of this study were older persons aged 55 or above, and the median age of the respondents was 67.84. Also, 26 respondents had had learning experience in the six months prior to the survey being carried out. In the documentary study, both formal and nonformal learning programmes in Hong Kong were studied. Seven major older persons’ education providers were included, including one tertiary institution, one radio broadcasting company and five active NGOs.

The findings show the gaps between older persons’ expectations and present provision of LL programmes. The Hong Kong Lifelong Learning Model should have tertiary institutions actively involved in the provision of both formal and nonformal learning programmes. Face to face interviews should be adopted. Formal learning programmes should be made available on the internet or radio. Moreover, older persons would be more satisfied if they could learn at tertiary institutions or centres most convenient for them. Thus, various organizations should have stronger cooperation with each other so that resources can be shared. Older persons preferred a greater variety of courses and lessons and would like to receive grants or travel subsidy. Most of the elder learners were willing to be instructors, therefore they could be recruited as voluntary teachers, and more courses to train older learners as instructors should be offered. The duration of formal learning programmes may be too long for the elderly learners, and they asked for a credit-accumulating system to be implemented in those programmes. A central data bank and newsletters should be made available so that older persons could gain access to information more easily. In order to improve the quality of courses, evaluation and needs assessments should be carried out regularly by service providers, and they should consider designing the course curriculum with elder learners. In order to help those who did not receive much education when young, foundation literacy courses could be offered. In addition, instead of written course work, tests, and examinations, oral presentations and examinations could be carried out. Finally, certificates, qualifications, and public and large scale graduation ceremonies are found to be good reinforcements for older persons’ learning behaviour.

In conclusion, Hong Kong, as a beginner in the systematic development of LL for older persons, has much to do to improve the existing system. Irrefutably, making it perfect is arduous because both the service providers and the government have their own constraints. Nonetheless, trying the best to fill in the gaps between the ideal and the reality will bring the greatest benefits to older persons and the society.
Date of Award2005
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorCheung-ming Alfred CHAN (Supervisor) & David Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor)

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