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Reform of Liberal Studies (Part 2)

     The revised Liberal Studies curriculum is not an entirely new subject but an optimised curriculum with reference to the curriculum rationale and aims of the current Liberal Studies curriculum. Some people query why so much emphasis is placed on our country in the revised curriculum, claiming that it would narrow students' horizons and is aimed at relaunching the subject of "National Education". The Education Bureau (EDB) would like to clarify hereby the misunderstandings about the revised curriculum from the perspectives of its overall planning considerations, learning focuses, rationale and aims, so that the public will understand correctly the nature and features of the revised curriculum.

 

  1. The elements of national education originate from the current Liberal Studies curriculum

 

     The rationale of the current Liberal Studies curriculum emphasises nurturing students to be informed and responsible citizens with a sense of national identity and global perspectives. One of the learning focuses of the current curriculum requires students to understand the latest situation of the country and traditional Chinese culture so as to enable them to gain a comprehensive understanding of the latest developments of the nation, including an overview of China's reform and opening-up, the major domestic policies and foreign relations of the nation, as well as Chinese culture and modern life. With reference to the rationale, aims and learning focuses of the current curriculum as well as the recommendations of the CDC-HKEAA Committee on the Renamed Subject, the revised curriculum also attaches importance to cultivating students' sense of national identity and their understanding about the nation, and aims to help students become informed and responsible citizens of society, the nation and the world, which is in line with the current Liberal Studies curriculum. The education sector should be familiar with that.

 

     The topics of the revised curriculum are also developed from the current Liberal Studies curriculum. Based on the learning focuses of "Hong Kong Today", "Modern China" and "Globalization" in the current curriculum, the curriculum framework of the revised curriculum centres around the topics of Hong Kong, our country and the world. The revised curriculum aims to enable students to study comprehensively the Constitution, the Basic Law and the rule of law, as well as the roles and functions of Hong Kong in relation to our country, in order to deepen their understanding of the national development and the interconnectedness between the nation and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an inalienable part of our country. The school curriculum aims to cultivate in students the attributes of nationals and a sense of national identity and, through guiding students to learn different topics, enable them to gain a foothold in Hong Kong, understand the national development and develop a global perspective. The EDB believes that teachers with teaching experience in Liberal Studies are capable of grasping the topics of the revised curriculum.

 

  1. Understanding the value of national education positively

 

     Schools bear the responsibility of promoting national education. All along, the learning elements of national education have been embedded in various subjects of primary and secondary education, and are contents which students should learn. National education has been smeared over the years and the EDB's effort based on professional considerations for the promotion of national education has been politicised. Not only has the direction of the revised curriculum been distorted but some have even set critical thinking and national education against each other, misleading the public into thinking that national education violates the educational rationale of developing students' critical thinking and multiple-perspective thinking. Some people have given wrong guidance and alleged that the revised curriculum is political indoctrination. This not only disregards the justifiability and necessity of cultivating students' sense of national identity in Hong Kong where Chinese culture is the mainstay in society, but also ignores the need for helping students understand the history, latest developments and traditional culture of the nation in an in-depth and comprehensive manner.

 

     In order to create space for senior secondary students, it is proposed that the total lesson time for the revised subject be reduced from 250 to about 150-160 hours. Hence, it is inevitable that the curriculum topics will be subject to some deletion, reform and rearrangement, involving not just trimming in terms of quantity but also qualitative changes. It is inappropriate to speculate on the reasons for adopting the proposed curriculum design solely by comparing the topics of revised curriculum with those of the current Liberal Studies curriculum. For example, the topic of "Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationship" can be covered in life education lessons, other subjects at the junior secondary level and Other Learning Experiences (OLE). The topic of "Quality of life" in the current curriculum is also reflected in the topic of "Reform and opening-up and the change in people's life" of the revised curriculum, so as to enable students to understand the enhancement of people's quality of life in our country. With regard to the part on social-political affairs of Hong Kong, the proposed theme of "Hong Kong under 'One Country, Two Systems'" enables students to learn about the political structure of Hong Kong, significance of the rule of law and fundamental rights and duties of Hong Kong residents as stipulated in the Basic Law. Furthermore, in order to help students acquire a broad knowledge base, students are required to study the political structure of the nation in the revised curriculum. These are the essential topics for students to learn, based on the professional judgment of the curriculum committee, and definitely not "political indoctrination".

 

  1.  The revised curriculum attaches importance to cultivating students' critical thinking skills and multiple-perspective thinking

 

     Some detractors claim that the revised curriculum focus only on topics at the national level while dropping topics such as "Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships" and "Hong Kong Today", making it difficult for students to understand society from multiple perspectives and develop critical thinking skills. These claims completely misinterpret the learning focuses, rationale and aims of the curriculum.

 

     The revised curriculum aims to help students acquire a broad knowledge base and develop the qualities essential for the 21st century through studying the topics of Hong Kong, our country and the contemporary world, so that they can be better prepared for further studies and work. It also helps students cultivate a sense of national identity, develop a global perspective, and analyse different topics from the perspectives of economics, science, technology, environmental protection, sustainable development and public health, so as to develop their multiple-perspective thinking, such as the roles and interactions between the individual, society and the world in various areas. The learning focuses of the revised curriculum are certainly not skewed towards topics at the national level.

 

     One of the main features of the reform of the curriculum is to strengthen the coverage of knowledge and build a solid knowledge base for students. Without a solid knowledge foundation, students cannot understand the topics comprehensively and deeply, not to mention the need to think critically and from multiple perspectives. Hence, the 10 topics of the revised curriculum clearly state the basic knowledge that students must learn. The key to developing students' critical thinking skills and multiple-perspective thinking is not the presence of specific topics, but whether the teaching process allows students to examine the background, content, development trends and of the topics and the values involved from multiple perspectives based on facts and evidence, so that they can make law-abiding, reasonable and fair judgements and decisions. The revised curriculum requires students to acquire basic knowledge but has been misinterpreted as forbidding students from exploring topics from multiple perspectives. This is a misunderstanding of the intention of the curriculum reform.

 

Conclusion: The revised curriculum aligns with the original intention of Liberal Studies

 

     In line with the original intention of the Liberal Studies curriculum, the revised curriculum aims to help students acquire a solid knowledge base, develop multiple-perspective thinking and study contemporary topics in a positive manner. Upon the launch of the revised curriculum, teachers will continue to be encouraged to adopt diversified learning and teaching strategies and appropriate learning and teaching materials. The EDB believes that teachers are professionals and capable of grasping the work of the revised curriculum swiftly.

 

     The proposals for optimising the four senior secondary core subjects can be implemented at S4 in the 2021/22 school year leading to the 2024 HKDSE Examination at the earliest. It is hoped that various sectors will put aside their differences and support the optimising measures so that students will benefit as soon as possible. The EDB will enhance the supporting measures, including organising teacher training and developing learning and teaching resources, with a view to helping teachers make appropriate preparation.

 

     The EDB deeply regrets that individual parties have ignored the deviations of Liberal Studies over the years, without providing any concrete suggestions for improvement. They have interpreted the curriculum from their prescribed standpoints and purposely confused the public. The curriculum reform in the best interests of students has been politicised and the EDB was smeared with emotive language, in a blatant attempt to destroy the trust between teachers and the Bureau.

February 10, 2021 (Wednesday)