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LCQ19: The subject of Liberal Studies under the New Senior Secondary Academic Structure

     Following is a question by the Hon Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (December 3):


     It has been reported that an experienced teacher of the subject of Liberal Studies (LS) for senior secondary education has pointed out that the performance samples of those candidates who achieved the excellent result of Level 5 in the LS subject of the 2014 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination, recently published by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, have displayed a distinct anti-government political attitude and showed that such candidates have failed to achieve the assessment objective that the candidates should be able "to consider and comment on different viewpoints in their handling of different issues" set out in the assessment framework of the LS subject. That teacher has also queried that the personal political stance of the markers might have influenced their assessment of the candidates. In addition, there are views that while one of the aims of the LS subject is to develop students' critical thinking skills, the term "critical thinking" has been translated into Chinese as "批判性思考" which makes students tend to be critical of others' views. Notwithstanding the recent translation of the term as "明辨性思考" by the Education Bureau (EDB), this new translation has not been adopted in the publications and web site of EDB across the board. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether EDB will conduct a review to see if the assessment standards adopted for the examination of the LS subject are too vague, and whether it will take measures to prevent markers' assessment of the candidates from being affected by their personal political stance; if it will, of the timetable for conducting such a review and taking such measures; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether EDB will take measures to clarify further the correct Chinese translation for "critical thinking" being "明辨性思考", and request all departments under EDB and all related organisations to use this Chinese translation uniformly; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(3) as an Associate Professor of the Philosophy Department of the University of Hong Kong has pointed out that critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people, and that critical thinking skills should enable a person to understand the logical connections between ideas and to put the information collected into good use for analysing a subject in a comprehensive manner, whether EDB will make reference to the explanation of this scholar and review its current description of the meaning of the term "critical thinking"; if it will not, of the reasons for that?



     With regard to the questions raised by Hon Regina Ip, the replies are as follows:

(1) There are clear assessment objectives for Liberal Studies. Based on the assessment requirements of each question, a level-wise marking guideline (with descriptions of the performance level and examples of answering approaches) is developed to illustrate the marking standard, and sample scripts are also provided for markers' reference. Similar to all other subjects, before and in the course of marking, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) has established rigorous procedures and mechanism for ensuring the marking standard. The Chief Examiners and the Assistant Examiners as well as the Onscreen Marking System will closely monitor the performance of markers.  

     For those questions requiring candidates to express their own stance, the key marking consideration is not the stance but the sufficiency and organisation of their arguments. All appointed markers in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination are professional teachers. Before marking, they need to go through the training and qualifying stages. Random check-marking in the course of marking is conducted to ensure that the marking standard is adhered to. Markers' political orientation and political affiliation (if any) should not affect their professional judgement in the marking exercise.

     Besides, double-marking has been adopted in Liberal Studies. Each marker is only responsible for marking one question in the paper and each question is marked separately by two markers. If the mark discrepancy between the two markers is great, the system will distribute the script to a third marker for marking. If there is a continuing discrepancy, the system will distribute the script to the Chief or Assistant Examiner for a fourth marking. Therefore, each question in an answer script might be marked up to four times by at most four markers (including the Chief or Assistant Examiner). For the Liberal Studies Examination, as each candidate has to answer four questions, his/her script will be marked up to 16 times by at most 16 markers (including the Chief or Assistant Examiner).

     Moreover, the HKEAA will explain the assessment requirements, marking standard and candidates' performance through publishing the Examiner's Reports, organising briefing sessions for teachers and providing samples of different levels of performance after the examination every year. After the marking process, markers are invited to indicate their views on the question papers and the marking process in the markers' reports. The HKEAA will conduct a questionnaire survey to solicit views from schools on the examinations of different subjects every year. Besides, the HKDSE Subject Committees under HKEAA will conduct regular meetings to review the question papers and the assessment mechanisms.

     The second stage of the New Academic Structure (NAS) Medium-term Review is now in progress, including students' learning experiences in the whole-school curriculum, the impact of the NAS on students' further studies, the implementation of curriculum and assessment at the school level (including school-based arrangements), and the implementation of curriculum and assessment of individual subjects (including Liberal Studies). The proposed recommendations would be made according to student-centred and professional principles.

(2) and (3) According to the Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (5th ed.) (2007) (現代漢語詞典) edited by the Lexicographic Section of the Institute of Linguistics, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the meanings of "批判" are "分析判別,評論好壞" or "對錯誤的思想、言論或行為做系統的分析,加以否定". Meanwhile, the Chinese terms of "批判思維" or "批判思考" have been widely adopted on the mainland, in Taiwan and Macau (please refer to Appendix 1 for examples). In Hong Kong, the Chinese term "批判性思考" has been commonly used by the education sector (please refer to Appendix 2 for examples).

     According to our recommendation, students should master numerous skills during their learning of critical thinking, namely collating relevant information, grasping facts, distinguishing between facts and opinions, conducting objective analysis, and making well-grounded exposition and comment. However, there are some public misconceptions of the Chinese term "批判性思考" which is being perceived as negative criticisms or only for the sake of being critical. Thus, EDB agrees to adopt the Chinese term "明辨性思考" as the translation for "critical thinking", alongside the Chinese term "批判性思考" and this practice can reassure the education sector that it is not a new skill being introduced to replace the existing one. For instance, the composite term "批判/明辨性思考能力" has been extensively adopted in the Basic Education Curriculum Guide - To Sustain, Deepen and Focus on Learning to Learn (Primary 1 - 6) (2014) to facilitate educators and the public to understand the emphasis of the term.

     I would like to reiterate that the above-mentioned exposition of "critical thinking" has always been adopted by the EDB in teacher training activities whenever they are related to the development of students' thinking skills. Also, teachers of Liberal Studies already have a thorough understanding of the exposition. Our description of critical thinking is no different from the view of the mentioned Associate Professor of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Hong Kong. In future curriculum documents and training activities, EDB will adopt the term "明辨(批判)性思考能力" as the Chinese translation of "critical thinking".

Ends/Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:56


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