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LCQ12: Curriculum and Assessment Guide and textbooks for Liberal Studies

     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 (February 25):


     An academic article published recently by an Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong has pointed out that while one of the objectives of the subject of Liberal Studies (LS) for secondary education is to help students appreciate and respect diversity in cultures and views in a pluralistic society and handle conflicting values, there are not detailed discussions on or descriptions of multiculturalism or the specific differences and similarities among various religions in the Curriculum and Assessment Guide (C&A Guide) for Liberal Studies in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination. The article has also criticised that the discussions on and descriptions of multiculturalism or religions in LS textbooks in the market are shallow. For example, the followers of certain religions are usually stereotyped negatively, and the life of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong is never explored impartially and in depth. Although the Education Bureau (EDB) does not approve of teachers using textbooks when teaching LS and has repeatedly emphasised that teachers should not be confined by the contents of textbooks when teaching LS, teachers still depend on textbooks in teaching LS. The article has therefore recommended that publishers should consider the suggestions of multiculturalism experts or representatives of ethnic minorities when compiling LS textbooks, and that EDB should require such textbooks to undergo review, so as to ensure their quality. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether EDB will invite experts well-versed in multiculturalism or representatives of ethnic minorities to review the parts on multiculturalism or religions in the existing C&A Guide for LS, so as to resolve the aforesaid problems; if it will, when it will do so; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(2) whether EDB will consider afresh requiring publishers of LS textbooks to submit their textbooks to EDB for review, so as to ensure that such textbooks are up to a basic academic standard; if it will not, of its justifications (other than its disapproval of teachers using textbooks when teaching LS) for not requiring such textbooks to undergo review, and the other measures put in place by EDB to resolve the aforesaid problems?



     My reply to the Hon Regina Ip's question is as follows:

(1) Liberal Studies (LS) aims to broaden students' knowledge base and enhance their social awareness through the study of a wide range of issues. The LS curriculum involves various issues on multiculturalism, such as discussing the significance of multiple identities to Hong Kong residents, and analysing whether globalisation promotes homogeneity or diversity in culture and values at the global level. In addition, the curriculum document recommends religion as one of the suggested themes of enquiry under Independent Enquiry Study for students to explore from different perspectives. To provide reference materials for teachers, the Education Bureau has developed learning and teaching resources on multiculturalism and ethnic minorities, and invited academics to conduct seminars for teachers' knowledge enrichment.

     The New Academic Structure Medium-term Review is still on-going. We will adhere to the student-learning centred and professional principles, carefully collect and listen to views from all parties including relevant experts and stakeholders in order to make the review more comprehensive. The medium-term recommendations and the direction of long-term development of LS will be announced by July 2015.

(2) Senior Secondary LS encourages students to engage critical thinking to tackle contemporary issues from multiple perspectives and put forward evidence-based views, judgment and suggestions. In view of the largely 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 textbooks. Students should also explore on their own varied and latest materials in the course of learning so that they can make sensible judgments underpinned by concrete evidence and analyses of 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. Therefore, we do not at the moment accept submission of LS "textbooks" for review.

     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 such a way as to cater for the various parts of the curriculum, the resources and materials available on the resource platform are updated and enriched regularly 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 greater detail 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.

     We will continue 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 those LS learning resources which have not been reviewed, and cautioning against relying heavily on a single source of learning materials. We will also continue to share and promote good practices regarding the use and management of learning and teaching resources through school visits and professional networks.

     Furthermore, to alleviate the workload of teachers, especially those fresh to teaching LS, we will develop in the near future more "fit-for-purpose" learning and teaching resources for teachers and students. These will be underpinned by appropriate professional support and training for teachers. Taking the interpretation of the curriculum in the Resource Package of 2013 as the blueprint, we are going to develop a series of resource booklets on the learning focuses of all the individual modules. To be fine-tuned taking into account consultation outcomes of the curriculum review now underway, each of the resource booklets will include the learning focuses as well as learning and teaching exemplars of the respective modules, together with the essential basic knowledge and concepts to be covered in the three-year curriculum. The resource booklets will provide teachers and students with appropriate learning materials, exemplars of issue enquiry, reference materials, etc. The resource booklets will be developed and distributed to schools by phases in 2015 and will be updated as and when necessary.

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

     In the long run, the Education Bureau will study the viability of accepting the submission of LS textbooks for review. We will also formulate textbook review requirements and criteria appropriate to the unique learning requirements and contents of LS for the purpose of quality assurance.

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:45


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