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LCQ1: NSS Liberal Studies

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (April 24):


     Some teachers of the subject of Liberal Studies (LS) under the New Senior Secondary academic structure have pointed out room for improvement to the subject in three aspects, namely course content, teaching support and assessment by public examination, since its launch in 2009, and LS teachers are also facing heavy pressure in teaching the subject. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given the criticism about the fragmentary content and unclear positioning of the LS curriculum, whether the authorities will conduct a comprehensive review of the curriculum design of the subject (e.g. deleting part of the content or realigning the proportion of the core units while incorporating theoretical knowledge related to critical thinking by drawing reference to the curriculum of the subject of Ethics and Religious Studies); if they will, of the review timetable; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) given that the one-off Liberal Studies Curriculum Support Grant (LSCSG) of $320,000 provided to each publicly-funded secondary school in the 2010-2011 school year will expire on August 31 this year, whether the authorities will consider afresh providing LSCSG on a recurrent basis, so as to help schools deploy additional manpower and resources to conduct small-class group teaching for the LS subject, thus promoting the healthy development of the subject as well as alleviating LS teachers' workload and pressure; and

(c) since the passing rate of the LS subject in the first Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSEE) held in 2012 is as high as 90.8%, why the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority still reduced the number of questions in one of the LS papers in the 2013 HKDSEE and the weighting allocated to the paper on grounds of allowing ample time for students to answer the questions and grasp them more easily; whether the authorities will analyse if the high passing rate in the LS examination last year reflected that the assessment by public examination was too lax, resulting in a failure to accurately assess students' learning results?



     Our reply to the Member's question is as follows:

(a) In mid-2012, the Education Bureau (EDB), the Curriculum Development Council and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) jointly reviewed the New Academic Structure (NAS), including the implementation of Liberal Studies. Through different channels, we had sought extensively the views of stakeholders, including academics, principals, teachers, professional bodies, students and parents, on the NAS. We had also collected relevant data through school surveys and visits. The progress report on the review of the NAS was released on April 19, 2013. As for Liberal Studies, schools in general agree that the curriculum framework should be maintained in the short-term, given that the current curriculum framework was formulated after comprehensive study and consultations, together with the fact that a consensus to any curriculum revision proposals could not be reached without further data collection, consultations and careful deliberations. Now teachers have started to better understand and become more familiar with Liberal Studies after the first cycle of implementation under the New Senior Secondary (NSS) curriculum. Any major change to the subject, if introduced in the short term, will increase teachers' burden of mastering the curriculum and assessment as well as lesson preparation.

     The EDB will continue to listen to the views of teachers and various sectors, and will soon embark on the medium and long-term review of the curriculum. Drawing on the experience from the implementation of the curriculum, we will conduct a comprehensive review of the curriculum and assessment design of Liberal Studies. We anticipate that the medium and long-term recommendations on curriculum revision can be rolled out in or after the 2016/17 school year.

(b) Since the 2008/09 school year, schools have been and will continue to be provided with the Senior Secondary Curriculum Support Grant (SSCSG), which can be deployed flexibly to support the implementation of the NSS curriculum, including Liberal Studies. From the 2012/13 school year onwards, the SSCSG is equivalent to the mid-point salary of 0.1 Graduate Master/Mistress per NSS class. It is worth noting that the SSCSG was originally designated to support the implementation of Liberal Studies but was later integrated with other NSS provisions at the suggestion of the school sector to give schools greater flexibility. Bearing in mind factors such as their specific situations and the learning needs of students, schools should consult their teachers and seek the approval of their School Management Committees or Incorporated Management Committees on the flexible use of the SSCSG to support the implementation of Liberal Studies, including, among others, deploying additional manpower and resources to alleviate teachers' workload, and conducting group teaching.

(c) The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination adopts a standards-referenced reporting system, under which candidates' levels of performance are reported with reference to a set of well-defined and constant standards. Results of Liberal Studies for the first year of HKDSE Examination were determined on the basis of candidates' performance, level descriptors under the standards-referenced reporting system, performance levels of exemplars and comments from the subject expert panel.

     Each year, the HKEAA will conduct a review upon the completion of the HKDSE examination and make recommendations for improvement in the light of the experiences gained so as to further enhance the quality of the examination and fine-tune various arrangements. As far as Liberal Studies is concerned, the examination analysis in 2012 revealed that some candidates failed to complete Paper 1 within the examination time. It was, therefore, recommended that appropriate adjustments to the length of the data and number of sub-questions of Paper 1 should be made starting from 2013 in such a way that candidates would be able to analyse and organise their answers to the questions within the existing time limit. The adjustments received wide support from schools. In this connection, the HKEAA distributed the Practice Papers to schools in late-2012 to familiarise teachers and students with the examination requirements.

     Despite the above adjustments, the level of difficulty and the weighting of Paper 1 remain unchanged. There is no lowering of the overall assessment criteria. As regards the grading for Liberal Studies in the 2013 HKDSE Examination, the HKEAA will grade candidates' performance with reference to the same standards adopted in last year's examination so as to ensure comparability of year-on-year results.

Ends/Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:51


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