Nine secondary schools and educational institutions in the Greater Bay Area in southern China signed a letter of intent on Thursday aimed at enhancing cooperation in educational development in the area.

The participants who signed the letter of intent titled “Youth Education Development in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” included Han Academy, Kao Yip Middle School, Guangdong Country Garden School, Caritas Chai Wan Marden Foundation Secondary School, China International Education Development Ltd, ASDAN, Hong Kong Quality And Talent Migrants Association, Shenzhen Polytechnic’s Institute of Economics and Momen College.

The nine institutions proposed to unite the universities, middle schools and primary schools and the various institutions engaged in youth education in the Greater Bay Area, enhance their cooperation and share educational resources in conformity with the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which was launched by the central government in February, according to the letter.

They said they will launch cross-border exchange student programs and initiate interactive training among schools. They also suggested introducing new educational methods to speed up educational reform, keep pace with the artificial intelligence revolution and launch an educational platform with the use of new technologies such as 5G telecommunications, big data and cloud systems.

The Belt and Road Initiative and the development of the Greater Bay Area are China’s important strategies, especially in the educational development, Xu Li, Chairman of Happy Life Education Foundation and School Supervisor at Han Academy, said in an opening speech of The 1st Belt and Road & Greater Bay Area Education Summit Forum in Hong Kong on Thursday.

“Without good education, there will not be any high-quality development,” Xu said, adding that stronger ties among the schools and educational institutions in the area will serve the national interest.

Hong Kong’s universities are strong in basic research but weak in knowledge transfer and commercialisation of research results, said Enoch Young Chien-ming, vice-president of Unesco Hong Kong Association and vice-chairman at Han Academy. They can create synergy by partnering with the educational institutions in the Greater Bay Area, Young said.

China’s economic achievement has been supported by education over the past few decades, Jiang Jianxiang, Deputy Director-General Department of Educational, Scientific and Technological Affairs, the Liaison Office of the central government in Hong Kong, said. It is a great achievement for China to provide education to 200 million local children, although there is a lot of room to improve in terms of education quality, Jiang said.

China’s basic education does not only support economic growth domestically but also globally, Jiang said. Every year, about 350,000 Chinese students study abroad with some of them staying overseas and contributing to the world with their knowledge, he said.

Jiang also said he agreed with Huawei Technologies Founder and Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei, who said in an interview in January that China should attach importance to education. Primary education is the foundation of a strong country and “education is the cheap defence of nations.”

The famous quote “education is the cheap defence of nations” was originated by Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman, in the 18th century.

The 1st Belt and Road & Greater Bay Area Education Summit Forum was organised by Happy Life Education Foundation and the Han Academy with a theme “Today’s Education: Responsibilities and Challenges.” Supporting parties include the Hong Kong Culture Association Ltd, Central China Normal University Alumni Association (Hong Kong), Hong Kong Quality And Talent Migrants Association and the UNESCO Hong Kong Association.

In general, students from China, Japan and South Korea performed better in the Programme for International Student Assessment than those from other countries, said Zhao Zhengzhou, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Centre for Governance and Citizenship at the Education University of Hong Kong. It could be the reason that Confucius’ culture, as well as “tiger-moms”, has played a role in this phenomenon, Zhao said.

Educators should think about how to reform the education system so young people will be able to adapt to the artificial intelligence era in the coming two decades, said Guo Yiming, President of Central China Normal University Alumni Association (Hong Kong).