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LCQ9: Liberal Studies Textbooks

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Helena Wong and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):


     The Consumer Council earlier referred to educational experts for evaluation 13 revised senior secondary textbooks which were chosen and used by more schools in this school year, nine of which are on Liberal Studies (LS) subject.  According to the evaluation results announced last month, of the nine LS textbooks, revision of five was considered to be somewhat necessary while revision of the other four was entirely unwarranted.  The Consumer Council has pointed out that publishers revising textbooks at will add to the burden of parents.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of secondary schools using LS textbooks in each of the past three school years; if such statistics are unavailable, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether it has advised LS textbook publishers directly, or through the trade associations concerned, to publish the supplementary or revised contents of the textbooks in the form of appendices as far as possible to reduce the need for revising textbooks for this subject; if it has, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that publishers may submit their textbooks to the Education Bureau (EDB) for review for inclusion in the Recommended Textbook List (RTL), and that EDB has stipulated that the textbooks included in RTL are subject to the "five-year rule of no revision", whether EDB has considered accepting publishers' applications for review of LS textbooks so that when LS textbooks are included in RTL, the publishers may not revise such textbooks at will; if EDB has, when it will be implemented; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to Dr the Hon Helena Wong's question is as follows:

(1) Senior Secondary Liberal Studies (LS) encourages students to engage critical thinking to tackle contemporary issues from multiple perspectives and put forward evidence-based views, judgement and suggestions.  In view of the mostly evolving and ever-changing nature of contemporary issues, teachers should flexibly adopt a wide range of learning and teaching materials instead of relying solely on the contents provided by textbook publishers.  Students should also explore on their own various materials in the course of learning so that they can make sensible judgement underpinned by concrete evidence and relevant information.  In the light of the above considerations, we are of the view that it is not the best option to use conventional textbooks for the learning and teaching of LS.

     The Education Bureau has neither collected nor kept statistical data on the use of textbooks for individual subjects and hence is unable to provide the number of secondary schools using LS "textbooks" in the past three school years.  In the course of our contacts with schools, we have learned that most secondary schools use diversified learning and teaching resources for LS, including drawing reference from "textbooks" produced by textbook publishers.

(2) and (3) Based on (1) above, we do not accept submission of LS "textbooks" for review at the moment. Nor does the "five-year no-revision" rule apply to LS.  As mentioned in (1) above, LS teachers should take a flexible approach to identify a diversified range of learning and teaching resources.  In the process of identifying learning and teaching resources for LS, they should take into account the following two points: (a) whether the chosen resources can provide relevant background information and basic knowledge of perennial and contemporary issues; and (b) whether the chosen resources serve to bring out different values, interests, views, opinions and controversies of the evolving issues.

     We have been providing for free a wide variety of practical curriculum resources, learning and teaching materials as well as assessment items for teachers through the Web-based Resource Platform for LS (  Developed in a way to cater for the various parts of the curriculum, the resources and materials available on the resource platform are regularly updated and enriched in order to lighten teachers' workload.  Furthermore, we published in 2013 the Liberal Studies Curriculum and Assessment Resource Package (the Resource Package), which describes in more concrete details the learning focuses of each module and sets out examples for enquiry.  We have also put in place a series of follow-up measures to support teachers in using the Resource Package, including developing teaching exemplars and assessment items.  The Resource Package has been well received by schools.

     That said, the EDB is concerned about the rather frequent revision of LS "textbooks" and plans to adopt the following targeted measures, which include:

(i) actively exploring feasible ways to resolve the problem of frequent revision of LS "textbooks" with textbook publishers through established mechanisms and channels, and encouraging them to supplement or update existing "textbooks" through "reprinting with minor amendments" in order to increase the chance of reusing textbooks of older versions;

(ii) in the long run, studying the viability of accepting the submission of LS textbooks for review and formulating textbook review requirements and criteria appropriate to the unique learning requirements and contents of LS for the purpose of quality assurance;

(iii) continuing to disseminate through circulars to schools and seminars for teachers the requirements and criteria for selecting quality textbooks and curriculum resources, reminding schools to give careful consideration to whether there is a genuine need to choose LS learning resources which have not been reviewed, and cautioning against relying heavily on a single source of learning material as well as increasing parents' financial burden; and

(iv) sharing and promoting good practices regarding the use and management of learning and teaching resources identified through school visits and professional networks.

     We believe that the above measures can help resolve the problem of frequent revision of LS "textbooks" and mitigate reliance by teachers and students on LS "textbooks" which have not been reviewed.

     Furthermore, to alleviate the workload of teachers, especially those who are fresh to teaching LS, we will develop in the near future more "ready-to-use" learning and teaching resources for teachers and students, underpinned by appropriate professional support and training for teachers.  Taking the interpretation of the curriculum by the Resource Package of 2013 as the blueprint, we are going to develop a series of resource booklets on the learning focuses of all individual modules.  To be revised according to the outcomes of the consultation of curriculum review now underway, each of the resource booklets will include the learning focuses and examples of enquiry of the respective module, as well as the learning and teaching materials for all learning focuses of the three-year LS curriculum. In particular, the learning and teaching resources will provide teachers and students the necessary basic knowledge and concepts and issues of enquiry.  The resource booklets will be developed and distributed to schools by phases from 2015 and will be updated as and when necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:44


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