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A Holistic Review of the Hong Kong School Curriculum Proposed Reforms

Content

Page
Why reform the school curriculum?
1
Reflections on the school curriculum – from now to future
1
Gathering views from the public, piloting recommendations and implementing the curriculum in schools
1
Our beliefs: education, curriculum, our future generation
2

Proposals for curriculum reform

2
Broad reform measures
3
I. Curriculum as learning experiences for whole person development
3
1.

Providing lifelong learning experiences which are essential to students’ whole person development

3
2. Emphasis on development of generic elements for lifelong learning
3
3. From compartmentalized and overcrowded school subjects to Key Learning Areas for a broad and balanced curriculum
3
4. Open and flexible framework for different organisations/courses rather than ‘teaching syllabus’
4
5. Continuity, progression and coherence to bridge gaps at interfaces and reinforce links
4
6. From early specialization in grammar, technical and prevocational school curricula to whole-person development throughout schooling
4
7. Complementary formal, informal and non-formal curricula
4
II. Enhancement of quality teaching and learning

5

1. Keeping the school as the centre of student learning
5
2. Constructing a conceptual road map for lifelong learning at various stages of schooling
5
3. Accommodating new needs of society, strengthening relevant elements of learning and providing alternatives
5
4. Improving the quality of teaching and learning, and catering for student potential, abilities and needs
5
5. Using feedback from assessment to improve teaching and learning
5
III. Flexible use of learning resources
6
1. From textbooks to diversified learning resources
6
2. Changing conception of learning time and time-tabling
6
IV. Implementation of effective curriculum initiatives
6
V. Research agenda and priority
7
Student entitlement of learning opportunities
7
1. Early childhood education
7
2. 9-year basic education
8
3. Post-basic/senior secondary Education
8
Initial proposals in Key Learning Areas
8
  Chinese language
8
  English language
9
  Mathematics
9
  Science
9
  Technology education
10
  Personal, social and humanities education (PSHE)
10
  Art education
11
  Physical education
11
Enablement measures
11
1. Coordination and collaboration
11
2. System adjustment and management
11
3. Professional development
12
Factors leading to success of curriculum reforms
12

Advice sought

12

A Holistic Review of the Hong Kong School Curriculum

Proposed Reforms

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Why do we have to reform the school curriculum?

We have to

  • provide students with a school curriculum which enables them to construct knowledge and develop a global outlook to cope with the changing and interdependent world in the 21st century;
  • develop students’ lifelong learning skills as stipulated in the aims of education (to enjoy learning, to enhance effectiveness in communication, to develop creativity, and to have a sense of commitment) in readiness for a knowledge-based economy and society;
  • set the directions for developing an open, flexible and coherent framework for Curriculum 2000 in order to improve the quality of students through effective teaching and learning.

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Reflections on the school curriculum – Present and future

To achieve the aims of curriculum reform, we need to seriously review the existing curriculum. The proposed reforms are based on answers to the following questions asked in the review process:

  1.  
    1. What is worth learning?
    2. How can students learn more effectively?
    3. What have we learnt from curriculum development experiences in Hong Kong in the past?
    4. What are the recommendations for curriculum reform?

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Gathering views from the public, piloting recommendations and implementing the curriculum in schools

We believe that the most effective way to develop the curriculum is to collaborate with our partners. We hope that eventually a widely accepted curriculum will be developed through our concerted effort. In this connection, we have worked out an agenda for the review of the curriculum.

The agenda for the review is as follows:

Schedule
Stages
Key tasks

Dec 1998 – Sep 1999

 

1st stage review initiated by CDC, synchronized with EC’s Aims of Education and Academic Structure Review

Core group, working group (making up of teachers, school heads, professionals from tertiary, etc.) meetings, seminars, informal

networking

Sep – Dec 1999

(1) Consultation on broad reform directions

Public forum on 28 Oct and

multiple consultative strategies

(2) Discussion on specific changes in school curriculum Public forums from Nov 1999 to April 2000, on-going meetings

Jan – Jun 2000

2nd stage review and development of

framework for Curriculum 2000,

synchronized with finalised recommendations of EC re academic structure review

 

On-going meetings, piloting
Jun 2000 Final report/proposals for public consultation Submission of final report to CDC and co-ordination with EC

Sep 2000 – Aug 2002

Piloting of alternative models Tripartite development of curriculum planning-practice-resources

Note: At the end of the current stage of consultation by end of December 1999, a co-ordinated agenda, strategy and schedule of related reforms will be jointly made by the Education Department (ED), Curriculum Development Council (CDC), Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA), Education Commission (EC) and Board of Education (BoE).

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Our beliefs: education, curriculum, our future generation

We strongly believe that our future generation will learn better than us. A comprehensive curriculum reform is proposed with our commitment to the following core values:

  • A learner-focussed curriculum is developed in the best interest of students;
  • A belief in all students’ ability to learn and their having multiple-intelligences and different potentials, resulting in a firm commitment to provide equal opportunities for students to have access to essential learning, as manifested in the entitlements of students;
  • Diversity and flexibility in curriculum development to suit the needs of students and different school contexts;
  • Partnership in curriculum development with all sectors of society through a participative, interactive, and collaborative approach.

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Proposals for curriculum reform

The purpose of the following proposals is to suggest the general directions for curriculum development in Hong Kong in harmony with the vision for lifelong learning, which would ultimately contribute to improving the quality of teaching/learning, and the quality of Hong Kong people.

The proposed reforms are grouped under the following categories:

  • Broad reform measures
  • Student entitlements of learning opportunities
  • Suggested agenda for more specific changes
  • Enablement measures

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Broad reform measures

In order to develop a school curriculum for the 21st century, we will adopt the following broad reform measures: (Please refer to the Appendix “Concepts of the school curriculum”)

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  1. Curriculum as learning experiences for whole person development
    1. Providing lifelong learning experiences which are essential to students’ whole person development

To meet the needs of students and society, it is necessary to provide lifelong learning experiences through the school curriculum. Five types of learning experiences are regarded as essential to school students for whole person development:

  •  
    •  
      • intellectual development (e.g. academic studies)
      • life experiences (e.g. moral & sex education, character formation)
      • work-related/vocational experiences (knowledge of links between school curriculum and job opportunities,)
      • contributions to community service (e.g. civic education)
      • physical and aesthetic development (e.g. recreational sports, fitness training, art activities)
  1.  
    1. Emphasis on development of generic elements for lifelong learning

      Positive values and attitudes (e.g. moral, civic, environmental, sex, etc.), studying skills, critical thinking, information technology, creativity and interpersonal relationships (especially respect for others), are regarded as paramount for lifelong learning in a world where knowledge is ever changing. The generic elements stated above would be developed throughout all stages of schooling and across the Key Learning Areas (KLAs).

    1. From compartmentalized and overcrowded school subjects to Key Learning Areas for a broad and balanced curriculum

      The generic elements for lifelong learning are intertwined with the five types of essential learning experiences. To meet the needs of students, and to strengthen lateral coherence among subjects, the existing subject-bound curriculum is reorganized into eight KLAs (Chinese, English, Mathematics, Science, Technology education, Personal, social & humanities education, Arts education, and Physical education). The KLAs provide contexts for the development of attitudes/values, concepts/knowledge, and skills as elements of learning specific to each KLA or common among them.

    1. Open and flexible framework for different curriculum organisations/courses rather than ‘teaching syllabus’

      The existing practice of defining the curricula recommended by CDC through a set of ‘teaching syllabuses’ of school subjects with detailed prescription of contents serving also the examination purpose would not be an effective way to achieve the new aims of education. An open and flexible curriculum framework which specifies key concepts, issues, skills, values and attitudes broadly in KLAs and generic elements of learning across them will form the basis for diversified curriculum organisations (e.g. subjects/courses, modules, permeated studies, integrated studies, projects) to suit the needs, interests and abilities of students, contexts of schools, and also non-examinable and examinable curricula/courses. To meet the changing needs of society, the curriculum has to be renewed flexibly at appropriate intervals to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

    1. Continuity, progression and coherence to bridge gaps at interfaces and to reinforce links

      The new framework should ensure vertical continuity and smooth progression to bridge curriculum and learning gaps at interfaces such as kindergarten/primary, primary/secondary, and junior secondary/senior secondary. Lateral coherence is developed across KLAs throughout all levels of education to promote multi-perspective approach, enhance effective teaching/learning and facilitate development of alternative curriculum and delivery models. Links between attitudes/values, concepts/knowledge, and skills would also be reinforced.

    1. From early specialization in grammar, technical and prevocational school curricula to whole-person development throughout schooling

      Early specialisation/streaming in grammar, technical and prevocational school curricula will be eliminated while a whole-person, broad and balanced curriculum is promoted for all stages of schooling. Yet allowance for some specialised studies (e.g. vocational studies, sciences, technology, humanities, art) at senior secondary level will be given to cater for different interests and potentials of students.

    1. Complementary formal, informal and non-formal curricula

Learning experiences are to be gained from learning in the classroom as well as actual environments in the community and work places. Learning experiences in the different environments complement each other. Therefore, traditional boundaries between the formal (classroom), informal (extra-curricular activities), and non-formal (outside school as a social institution) curricula are not to be stressed; instead, they form integral parts of the school curriculum.

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  1. Enhancement of quality teaching and learning
  1.  
    1. Keeping the school as the centre of student learning

      The school as a social institution will remain the centre of student learning. It will organise the necessary learning situations for students. The curriculum also facilitates a linkage between formal, informal and non-formal curricula in personal, social and humanities education.

    1. Constructing a conceptual road map for lifelong learning at various stages of schooling

 

A conceptual road map of lifelong learning to be supported by curriculum evolution at various stages of schooling will require:

  •  
    •  
      • opportunities for learning in real and relevant contexts and appreciation of interconnectedness of knowledge through inquiring and conceptualising in basic education; and more opportunities in applying concepts and abstract learning with gradual formulation of conceptual structure of disciplines or specialised areas at senior secondary level;
      • opportunities for life experiences outside the classroom, mainly organised by schools or agencies, for personal and social development, independence in handling life situations, cultivation of positive values and attitudes and development of responsible citizenship;
      • opportunities to offer community service at every stage of schooling, and to recognise one’s contribution for the development of confidence, civic consciousness and creativity;
      • opportunities to gain exposure to and experience in jobs related with studies in school, so as to cultivate a positive work attitude and career aspirations; and
      • opportunities to acquire a sense of aesthetic appreciation and an awareness of physical fitness leading to the development of personal values for aesthetics and choice for physical activities for quality and healthy life.
  1.  
    1. Accommodating new needs of society, strengthening relevant elements of learning and providing alternatives

      In the new curriculum, cross-curricular elements and socially and economically relevant new elements are to be strengthened or added (such as information technology, science & technology, personal and social education, thinking skills, creativity). In the open and flexible framework, the organisation of courses around the elements of learning is made on the basis of the following: a) accommodating new needs, especially those relevant to daily life, society, economy; b) minimising interruption in schools, and c) providing alternatives for transition to the new vision at the schools’ own pace.

    1. Improving the quality of teaching and learning, and catering for student potential, abilities and needs

 

All curriculum reforms are geared towards improving the quality of teaching and learning. The effectiveness of teaching and learning has to be enhanced by focusing on the students, teaching and learning processes and their interaction, opportunities and constraints, as well as the learning outcomes. The following are some of the major suggestions:-

  •  
    •  
      • Diversified teaching/learning styles, strategies, contexts and resources are to be encouraged for different purposes and needs of teaching and learning.
      • Based on our conviction that all students including those with special educational needs can learn, we consider possible ways to cater for students with different learning potentials, abilities and needs such as alternative curriculum models in KLAs, suggestions on pedagogical approaches, resources and school-based support.
      • The strengths of a learning culture in family, schools, and society should be preserved, reinforced and effectively used to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
  1.  
    1. Using feedback from assessment to improve teaching and learning

Assessment is an integral part of the school curriculum. The feedback from assessment should be effectively used to improve teaching and learning. The different purposes and modes of assessment (e.g. objective tests, projects, portfolios) need to be distinguished and made clear to schools so that they are consistent with different curriculum aims, teaching/learning processes and contents.

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  1. Flexible use of learning resources
  1.  
    1. From textbooks to diversified learning resources

      The culture of over-reliance on textbooks as the main teaching/learning resources will be changed through greater emphasis on inquiry learning and the introduction of diversified learning resources. The change is essential for providing the appropriate contexts for learning as well as meeting the changing needs of society and nature of knowledge for real lifelong learning.

    1. Changing conception of learning time and time-tabling

The conventional practice of defining and allocating teaching time for each subject in terms of number of periods per week/cycle for formal teaching/learning in the classroom should be revamped. In line with the development mentioned above and subject to completion of the framework for Curriculum 2000, flexible time-tabling arrangements would be suggested for formal learning in each KLA and other types of learning experiences to meet the needs of students and schools. However, measures have to be taken to ensure that school-time or learning time is appropriately distributed and well used.

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  1. Implementation of effective curriculum initiatives

The key curriculum concepts embodied in past curriculum initiatives are considered together with other reform measures and used in different curriculum processes. These include, for instance:

  •  
    • Learning targets in Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC)
    • Use of integration in an open and flexible curriculum framework to develop diversified organisations and models
    • The student-focussed spirit as a common and overriding principle for teaching/learning e.g. the Activity Approach, Mastery Learning
    • Effective use of contextualised teaching and learning strategies e.g. task-based learning in TOC
    • Modular Curriculum as a form of curriculum organisation
    • Information technology as learning tool and resources
    • Criterion-referenced and formative assessment in Target Oriented Assessment for informing and improving teaching/learning

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  1. Research agenda and priority

Theory directs practice and practice informs theory. It is important to strike a balance between theory and practice through developing an agenda for curriculum research. Priority will be given to research on learning effectiveness including the use of information technology, how students learn better, and catering for learner differences as means to improve teaching/learning quality. Effort is also needed to promote an ethos of action research in schools so that school principals, teachers and other practitioners can contribute as partners for informing the improvement of teaching/learning. Emphasis should also be put on evaluation research that will inform processes, possibilities and constraints of curriculum change (including teaching/learning) related to the new curriculum at various levels of analysis (e.g. systemic, schools, departments, teachers, classrooms, pupils, other learning environments).

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Student entitlement of learning opportunities

It is believed that students are entitled to a range of learning opportunities that contribute to the achievement of the aims of education. The student entitlements at each stage of schooling imply a social contract in which different sectors of society have a role to play to realise them. Through different curriculum designs at different stages of schooling, students are entitled to receive:

  1. Early childhood education
  •  
    •  
      • Balanced development in communication, cognition, physique, emotion, ethics, social skills, and aesthetics
      • A safe and healthy environment
      • Developing own potentiality
      • Practising good learning and living habits
      • Developing into caring, responsible, co-operative, and self-disciplined members of the community
  1.  
    1. 9-year basic education
      • A broad and balanced school curriculum comprising different learning experiences and all key learning areas
      • Development of core competencies in the KLAs of English, Chinese, Mathematics, Science, Technology education, Personal, social and humanities education, Arts education and Physical education; and enhancement of interpersonal relationships for work appropriate for the junior secondary exit point, and mastery of lifelong learning skills
      • Opportunities for appreciating a multi-perspective approach to life issues (e.g. through integrated activities, projects)
      • Opportunities for life experiences, social services, physical and aesthetic development using the community environment and facilities
      • Exposure to career relevance and opportunities linked to KLAs
      • Sufficiently wide range of learning targets, learning content, learning strategies and assessment to be suggested in each KLA to cater for the individual differences in potentials, abilities and needs
      • Diversified teaching/learning approaches and styles suitable for different purposes of learning, and different potentials, abilities and needs of students; giving appropriate and effective consolidation, avoiding meaningless and mechanical drills for homework
      • Diversified learning environments and resources suitable for different purposes of learning and learning situations
  1.  
    1. Post-basic/senior secondary Education
      • A broad and balanced senior secondary curriculum comprising all essential learning experiences and KLAs; a core curriculum appropriate for the senior secondary exit point and for lifelong learning (including learning how to learn); provision of diversified options for some specialisation
      • Opportunities for more independent and active participation in community services to make personal contributions
      • Opportunities for more contacts with career-related activities to develop positive attitude towards work as well as to explore personal career aspirations
      • Opportunities for pursuing sport and art activities, so as to improve the quality of life
      • Diversified teaching/learning approaches and styles suitable for different purposes of learning, and different potentials, abilities and needs of students
      • Diversified learning environments and resources suitable for different purposes of learning and learning situations

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Initial proposals in Key Learning Areas

The following proposals and their related views will be discussed in a series of open curriculum forums and consultations for the development of the new curriculum.

Chinese language

Short term:

  • To enrich students’ balanced and integrated learning experience of the four macro-skills of language learning, i.e. listening, speaking, reading and writing
  • To incorporate Chinese Literature elements, aiming at the cultivation of students’ sense of aesthetic appreciation
  • To strengthen moral and value education, aiming at enhancing students’ ethic quality; to strengthen the learning of Chinese culture, aiming at nurturing students’ cultural identity;
  • To strengthen critical thinking abilities and the abilities to make personal judgement through learning Chinese language in a large variety of contexts

Long term:

  • To incorporate Putonghua learning elements into the Chinese Language Education Curriculum as one entity and in the long term to adopt Putonghua as medium of instruction in the Chinese Language Education

English language

  • To promote learner autonomy and lifelong learning through the introduction of language development strategies and attitudes in the English curriculum on top of knowledge and skills which also include using information technology for language learning
  • To enhance knowledge and skills in ways of using the English language to respond and give expression to real and imaginative experience (i.e. through the “Experience Dimension”) for personal development in addition to the cognitive (Knowledge Dimension) and communicative (Interpersonal Dimension) purposes
  • To give greater emphasis to the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills and creativity
  • To foster an open-minded attitude towards different cultures, values, points of view, and ways of life of other countries and people

Mathematics

  • To boost the use of information technology for more effective teaching and learning mathematics
  • To strengthen high-order thinking skills such as problem-solving, reasoning, communicating, inquiring and conceptualizing skills in particular
  • To introduce a continuous mathematics curriculum for 9-year basic education
  • To re-structure the mathematics curriculum at the senior secondary and sixth form levels to suit the different needs of students

Science

  • To enhance students’ scientific thinking and strengthen their investigative and problem-solving skills
  • To enhance science and technology elements in the primary school curriculum in order to nurture students’ curiosity and develop their inquiring mind
  • To better the coordination of fundamental science and technology courses at junior secondary level with a view to promoting scientific and technology literacy
  • To develop among senior secondary students a solid foundation in science and technology for empowering them to cope with a dynamically changing environment and to make informed judgements in a technological society
  • To offer science disciplines as optional courses to prepare senior secondary students for specialization in their further studies and to prepare them for future workplace

Technology education

  • To offer real, relevant and purposeful learning experiences to enhance students’ understanding and capability in response to the rapid changing technological society and challenges of the future
  • To formulate learning experiences with interfaces for integration with or modularization among other areas of learning experiences such as languages, humanities, mathematics and science at basic education level
  • To enhance focus on technology by integrating or modularizing subjects, for example, Business Fundamentals, Design Fundamentals, Graphical Communication, Automobile Technology, and Computer Literacy
  • To enhance the unique contribution of vocational elements at senior secondary levels and diversify/broaden choices in quick response to changing economic needs
  • To develop optional courses to prepare students for specialization in higher education if necessary
  • To strengthen such elements that nurture a concern for a healthy lifestyle, and a caring attitude for others and the environment
  • To strengthen the component of information technology through individual subjects (e.g. Design and Technology, Computer Literacy) and cross-curricular links to interface with the digitized world
  • To boost the elements of enterprising education, financial capability, consumer education and management as personal skills as part of personal and social education

Personal, social and humanities education (PSHE)

  • To develop a holistic framework for Personal and Social Education for the strengthening of students’ personal and social developments
  • To explore different approaches in providing a balanced curriculum at primary level in order to enhance students’ thinking and problem-solving skills, creativity, cultural understanding and global perspective
  • To reduce overlapping and curriculum overcrowdedness by reviewing the number, content and continuity of the existing Humanities subjects at different levels
  • To explore possible alternatives in curriculum organization within school contexts at secondary level to cater for different student needs. Examples include developing a modularized Social Studies/General Studies course at S1-3 level with an issue-inquiry approach and a foundation course of Integrated Humanities for students at senior secondary level
  • To align formal, informal and non-formal curriculum with a view to providing more curriculum space, enhancing vocational skills and making learning more relevant to daily life. Possible measures include extending students’ learning experience to the workplace, and making service learning a part of the curriculum
  • To strengthen interdisciplinary and multi-perspective studies through projects which encourage students to construct or generate knowledge on their own

Note: General Studies in Primary Curriculum

 

The present General Studies curriculum needs to be slimmed in factual contents, and elements of learning in Science and Technology education have to be included:

  •  
    • To strengthen students’ ability in learning how to learn and their IT skills
    • To provide opportunities for students to inquire and solve problems through a multi-perspective approach
    • To strengthen the development of personal and social values/attitudes through contexts pertaining to civic, moral, sex, environmental, consumer education and other cross-curricular areas
    • To include more elements relevant to daily life

Art education

  • To introduce a broad based art curriculum which include different art forms for 9-year basic education
  • To emphasize the unique contribution of a balanced art education to the development of students’ creativity, imagination and aesthetic perception
  • To make good use of cross-curricular links to promote the use of artistic senses, e.g. musical activities for the learning of languages, drama for simulating life situations

Physical education

  • To develop a broad and balanced PE curriculum in order to expand students’ experiences in affective, psychomotor and cognitive domains in physical education
  • To adopt a modular approach in designing the PE curriculum, so as to speed up PE curriculum renewal
  • To set clear targets on regular participation in physical activities and to provide opportunities for students to achieve them

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Enablement measures

It is believed that coordinated effort from all parties concerned is necessary to carry the proposed reforms forward. The following three categories of enablement measures have been identified to achieve the purpose:

  1. Coordination and collaboration
  • Partnership with all sectors (parents, employers, schools, teacher education institutions, etc.)
  • Maximising use of community and work environments, local and overseas if possible
  • Convergence between systemic and bottom-up initiatives (e.g. useful QEF experiences) for the best benefit of students
  • Connecting on-going curriculum change to the new vision (e.g. New Technical Curriculum)
  • Tripartite partnership in development-practice-resource building
  • On-site school-based support to help teachers and principals
  • Promoting a sharing culture of curriculum experiences (e.g. website, e-mail, informal networking)

2. System adjustment and management

  • Interactive, evolutionary system feedback and adjustment at policy level
  • Provision for transition and alternatives
  • Alignment with other educational initiatives: school-based management, quality assurance, school building design
  • Leadership in school
  • Resources including information technology and other school facilities
  • Evidence-based development and research priority and refocussing

3. Professional development

  • Informing and reforming pre-service and in-service teacher education/continuing teacher education
  • Teacher development through participation in school-based curriculum development and on-going curriculum development processes
  • Participation in action and applied research to generate knowledge and use knowledge in research
  • Dissemination of good practices (e.g. websites, informal networking, conference participation)

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Factors leading to success of curriculum reforms

The success of the proposed reform directions hinges on several crucial factors:

  • Removing high-stake assessment from basic Education
  • Reform of existing university admission requirements so that a wide range of learning experiences would be considered
  • Reform of existing public examination system

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Advice sought

We sincerely invite your valuable views on the proposed reforms. Your concern over education and curriculum development in the 21st century for the betterment of our next generation is greatly appreciated. Please send in your views by mail, fax or e-mail to the Secretariat of the Curriculum Development Council before 22 December 1999.

Address:

The Secretariat of the Curriculum Development Council Room 1329, Wu Chung House
213 Queen’s Road East,
Wan Chai
Hong Kong

Fax No.:

2573 5299 / 2575 4318
E-mail Address: cdchk@glink.net.hk

At the end of the current stage of consultation by end of December 1999, a co-ordinated agenda, strategy and schedule of related reforms will be jointly made by ED, CDC, HKEA, EC and BoE.

photo

Curriculum Development Council

October 1999

 

Last revision date: 21 March 2014
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