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[Archive] Review of academic structure

LCQ1: Review of academic structure

Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (October 15):

Question:

It has been reported that some secondary educational institutions oppose the adoption of a schooling structure comprising a five-year secondary course, a one-year matriculation course and a four-year undergraduate programme (the "5+1+4 structure") to expedite the plan to change the academic structure of university education from three years to four years, as they consider that such a schooling structure will cause confusion. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it accepts the above opposing view; if so, of the reason for that;

(b) it has given up the "5+1+4 structure" and will adopt a schooling structure comprising a three-year junior secondary course, a three-year senior secondary course and a four-year undergraduate programme instead; if so, of the details and the implementation timetable; and whether the authorities will allocate additional resources for the implementation of such a schooling structure; if so, of the details and the implementation timetable; and

(c) it will implement corresponding curriculum reforms in the light of the changes in the structure of secondary and university education; if so, of the details?

Reply:

Madam President,

In May 2003, the Education Commission (EC) submitted its recommendations to the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB), detailing the feasibility of a three-year senior secondary academic structure, its implementation timetable and the related transitional arrangements. The EC confirmed the benefits and practicability of adopting a three-year structure for senior secondary education and a four-year undergraduate programme in Hong Kong. Considering that the "3+3+4"structure should be built on the education and curriculum reforms, the EC recommended that the Government should continue to take forward and consolidate the education reform measures during the period of 2003/04 to 2006/07 and announce, by 2006/07 at the latest, when senior secondary one under the new academic structure would commence. These recommendations have been accepted by the Government. We acknowledge that the new three-year senior secondary academic structure will facilitate students' all-round development, broaden their learning experiences, enhance their generic skills and lay a solid foundation for life-long learning. We further consider that for the new academic structure to be successfully implemented, a pragmatic and gradual approach should be adopted to ensure a proper interface in curriculum and assessment between secondary and university education. There is general support for the EC's recommendations. Nevertheless, some members of the education sector have called for the accelerated implementation of the three-year senior secondary academic structure and four-year undergraduate programme so that the academic structure of Hong Kong could interface with that of many countries as soon as possible.

(a) The Administration is willing to explore any option advanced by the education sector to expedite the implementation of a four-year undergraduate programme, provided that it dovetails with the development of secondary education and would not detract from the education reform. Earlier on, some in the education sector have proposed a so-called "5+1+4" proposal which envisages a 5-year secondary, 1-year matriculation and four-year undergraduate programme as a transitional arrangement to the eventual implementation of a three-year senior secondary academic structure. The EMB discussed this with the secondary and university sectors with a view to gauging their views on the proposal.

The majority of the representatives from secondary schools have expressed great reservations about the "5+1+4" option. It is also difficult to reach consensus in the short term on issues involved in pursuing this option. These issues include the learning outcomes, qualification and articulation arrangements of the proposed sixth form, and the necessary adjustments at university level to ensure a proper interface with students' learning experiences of the proposed sixth form. In addition, the diversification of the senior secondary curriculum is now in a nascent stage; and secondary schools generally prefer to accord high priority to the curriculum and assessment reform. Furthermore, by nature, the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) may not be appropriate as the screening mechanism for university admission. Should the HKCEE results have a decisive influence on university admission, schools, parents and students will focus on drilling for the HKCEE. This would undermine the diversified and all-round development of students advocated in the education reform. Some secondary school representatives are also concerned that the curriculum of the proposed sixth form under the "5+1+4"option may not be able to cater for the needs of the less academically-inclined students.

The representatives of secondary schools and universities thus incline to devote efforts to accelerating the three-year senior secondary academic structure, instead of investing time and resources into the formulation and implementation of a transitional "5+1+4" structure. .

(b) As indicated at the outset, the Government accepts the EC's recommendations. We nevertheless also note the education sector's recent discussions on ways to accelerate the implementation of the "3+3+4" structure. We consider it necessary to consider carefully whether the supporting measures can be put in place in time. Such supporting measures include the development of a new curriculum; new public examinations and assessment mechanisms; teacher training; readiness of schools and teachers; class structure reorganisation; provision of additional S6 places; and interface with the undergraduate and other post-secondary programmes, etc. At present, in consultation with the Curriculum Development Council, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, representatives of secondary school councils and the University Grants Committee, we are examining the specific details on the timeframe and resource requirements of an accelerated implementation, with a view to making a decision as early as possible.

(c) The Curriculum Development Institute will introduce relevant reform of the curriculum in the light of future changes in the academic structure of secondary education. The reform will be geared to offering a diversified three-year senior secondary curriculum which aims to promote an all-round development of students and cater for their different aptitudes, abilities and needs. Thus, subjects of academic, practical, vocational and integrated nature will be included in the curriculum to meet the different personal and vocational needs of students as well as the social, economic and technological demands of Hong Kong's development. The curriculum will be designed to prepare students for different post-secondary articulation pathways, including admission into universities or vocational training institutions, or employment. We shall also develop diversified career-oriented curricula to equip students with the knowledge and skills required for employment.

Chinese, English, Mathematics and Liberal Studies will be the core subjects of the proposed senior secondary curriculum. Students may also take two elective subjects according to their own interests and abilities, with the rest of their time left for brief experience in learning other areas, participation in different co-curricular activities or enrichment learning. Students of higher abilities, may, after consulting their teachers, take an additional elective subject. Most of the subjects will comprise both core and extended parts. The extended part will consist of different modules so as to provide students with greater flexibility in selection; and this, we believe, will help enhance their interest in learning.

Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, October 15, 2003

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