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LCQ10: Revision to the curriculum of the junior secondary subject of Chinese History

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (May 13):


     In December 2013, the Curriculum Development Council set up an Ad Hoc Committee to conduct a full review of the curriculum of the junior secondary subject of Chinese History (Chinese History). On April 17 this year, the Education Bureau put forward a short-term recommendation on the basis of the review and commenced consultation with the education sector. It is proposed that under the short-term recommendation, only minor revision will be made, on the premise of not inducing any change to the curriculum content and textbooks, to the Chinese History curriculum along the line of "in-depth teaching of modern history and cursory teaching of ancient history", so as to enhance the teaching of modern history and to adjust the current proportion of modern history in the curriculum from one-third to one-half. Some Chinese History teachers have relayed to me that the authorities have all along not consulted the education sector extensively prior to introducing the short-term recommendation, and the consultation period of the short-term recommendation lasts merely one month. Such practices have deviated from those in the past. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as there are views that the current practice of teaching Chinese History, with two years and one year respectively allocated to the teaching of ancient history which straddles over several thousand years and to the teaching of modern history which involves only a hundred years or so, is already working along the line of "in-depth teaching of modern history and cursory teaching of ancient history", whether the authorities have assessed if the further increase in the proportion of modern history in the curriculum will weaken students' overall understanding of Chinese history;

(2) as the short-term recommendation does not involve any textbook revision, whether there are support measures and plans in place for the authorities to help teachers adapt to the new curriculum; if there are, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) as there are views that modern history involves quite a number of controversial incidents, with some of them still at a developing stage, the history records concerned are thus not comprehensive, how the authorities will ensure that the content of the new curriculum will take into account various historical perspectives, the teaching materials will not be biased, and the subject of Chinese History will not be reduced to a tool for instilling political orientations;

(4) of the factors that the authorities will consider when deciding whether the syllabus, teaching materials and textbooks of a particular subject are to be reviewed; and

(5) of the established procedures adopted by the authorities respectively for reviewing the syllabuses, teaching materials and textbooks of various subjects at senior secondary and junior secondary levels?



     The Ad Hoc Committee under the Curriculum Development Council put forward a short-term recommendation on the junior secondary Chinese History curriculum. It is proposed that schools make adjustment in time allocation to the teaching of ancient history and modern history so as to ensure that students can have a holistic understanding of the development of the country from past to present. It does not induce any changes to the curriculum content, and existing textbooks can still be used. In spite of this minor revision, the Education Bureau (EDB) has followed the same arrangements for curriculum revision to consult the education sector, which include holding a consultation forum to brief teachers of the recommendation and conducting a questionnaire survey to collect views from schools and teachers in a one-month consultation period.

     Our reply to the five parts of Hon Ip Kin-yuen's question is as follows:

(1) The Chinese History curriculum aims at providing junior secondary students with a holistic Chinese history education. In the curriculum guide Learning to Learn: Life-long Learning and Whole-person Development promulgated in 2001, it is stipulated that all junior secondary students in Hong Kong will study Chinese history and culture, which are essential learning contents, and the required learning hours are also specified. Regardless of which curriculum mode(s) schools adopt, their curriculum should cover all teaching topics of Chinese history. In the current curriculum, topics for Secondary 3 should cover around 300 years of modern history starting from the founding of the Qing Dynasty by the Manzu to the domestic politics and diplomacy of the People's Republic of China. More teaching time is required for modern history as it involves a lot of events and people and there are numerous and diversified learning materials. Currently the implementation of the curriculum in some secondary schools is not satisfactory. Some of these have adopted a cursory teaching approach whereas others have even skipped modern history, with the result that their students have insufficient knowledge and understanding of the development of modern Chinese history and related important events. This issue should be addressed properly. In addition, the recommendation of "attaching equal weight to past and present" in the history curricula has been a result of the professional discussion in the Ad Hoc Committee and its working group after making reference to the curricula of other regions and countries. Moreover, students taking senior secondary Chinese History, because of their inadequate knowledge of modern history, find it difficult to study this subject in which ancient history and modern history share equal proportion of content.

     In view of this, the Curriculum Development Council proposed a short-term recommendation which involves adjusting the time allocation of the teaching of ancient history and modern history, according to the principle of "attaching equal weight to both past and present". It is recommended that Secondary 3 students will start by studying the revolutionary movement by the end of the Qing Dynasty. In this way, two academic years and one academic year will be allocated respectively to the teaching of ancient history, which covers several thousand years and to the teaching of modern history, which involves a hundred years. In addition, the adoption of more interactive pedagogies is recommended to motivate students to further their study in Chinese history after they have received a holistic Chinese history education at junior secondary level. In sum, the short-term recommendation aims at catering for, as soon as possible, the learning needs of junior secondary students in the forthcoming academic year and helping them to develop an overall understanding of Chinese history.

(2) Although the short-term recommendation does not induce any change to the current curriculum content so that existing textbooks and relevant teaching materials can still be used, EDB is going to strengthen support measures at three levels, namely teachers, subject panel and students, in order to facilitate the implementation of the fine-tuned curriculum which is based on the principle of "attaching equal weight to both past and present" and to provide students with a quality Chinese history education. For example:

(i) veteran teachers will be invited to share their experiences and good practices in topic arrangement as well as the use of different learning and teaching strategies; teachers will be supported to form learning communities in which they can learn from one another; different schools' exemplars of topic arrangement will be made available for teachers' reference;

(ii) school-based support will be arranged according to the needs of individual schools; and

(iii) a variety of learning activities will be organised and information on other resources (e.g. Quality Education Fund) will be made available to teachers and schools.

     Apart from making reference to the two exemplars provided in the consultation session and the experience of those schools which have already made the adjustment, teachers can use their professional judgement in planning the curriculum and formulating the scheme of work according to their school contexts and students' interests and needs. In order to encourage enlivening of the Chinese history classrooms, EDB is organising teachers' training programmes on using museum exhibitions to promote the learning of Chinese history, with the aim of enhancing teachers' skills in planning visits to museum exhibitions and thereby arousing students' interest in studying history. Besides, EDB is also providing resources to encourage students to visit museums; for example, funds were granted in the first half of this year to sponsor student visits to special sessions of the "Dunhuang - Untold Tales, Untold Riches" exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Starting from June 2015, EDB will also sponsor special student visit sessions for the exhibition on the "Rise of the Celestial Empire: Consolidation and Cultural Exchange during the Han Dynasty" in the Hong Kong History Museum and the "Western Scientific Instruments of the Qing Court" exhibition in the Hong Kong Science Museum.

(3) As the short-term recommendation has not changed the curriculum content, existing textbooks can still be used. The current junior secondary Chinese History textbooks have undergone stringent textbook review processes and they are in a good position to support the implementation of the short-term recommendation. Schools can select textbooks according to their school contexts and students' abilities. EDB will also upload supplementary teaching materials for teachers' reference.

     It is explicitly stipulated in the current Syllabuses For Secondary Schools - Chinese History Secondary I-III that "training of thinking skills" and "construction of historical knowledge" are the main concerns of this subject. Apart from facilitating students' learning of significant historical events and cultural knowledge of the Chinese dynasties, teachers also put emphasis on developing studentsˇ¦ higher order thinking abilities such as understanding, inductive reasoning, synthesis, analysis and evaluation. By studying the causes and effects and impacts of historical events based on facts, students can gradually reach an integrated understanding of the historical events. It is the responsibility of every Chinese History teacher to promote the learning of history through different perspectives and based on historical facts. EDB believes that with their professionalism, all Chinese History teachers can teach modern Chinese history with an objective, neutral and impartial attitude so as to develop students' understanding and their abilities to synthesise, analyse and evaluate historical events.

(4) and (5) The Curriculum Development Council discusses and reviews the content and effectiveness of all implemented curricula on a regular basis to ensure that they respond to the changing needs of the society, the development of different subjects or Key Learning Areas (KLAs) and students' needs so that students can receive the best quality education. Such practices have been in place for long and are considered effective. When there is a need to review the curriculum of a particular subject, the relevant KLA committee will set up an ad hoc committee comprised of representatives from different sectors including teachers and experts with professional knowledge and experience in subject content, learning and teaching as well as assessment. After in-depth discussions, members will draft a recommendation and collect views from school principals and teachers through various channels of consultation such as seminars and questionnaire surveys. If the subject curriculum under review is not related to the public examination, at least one consultation session will be conducted to collect views from schools and other stakeholders. If it is related to the public examination, at least two consultation sessions will be conducted. The length of the consultation period varies with different subjects and it usually lasts one month. The final recommendation will be made after all the collected views have been analysed by the ad hoc committee. The recommendation will then be vetted and endorsed by the committee of the relevant KLA before releasing it to the public.

     In producing curriculum resources such as teaching materials and textbooks, publishers need to refer to the subject or KLA curriculum guides, and make revisions by making reference to the changing society and the updating of disciplinary knowledge. EDB will vet textbooks according to established procedures and criteria for quality textbooks focusing on contents, learning and teaching, structure and organisation, language and textbook layout. The same criteria will be adopted for vetting junior secondary and senior secondary textbooks.

Ends/Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:50


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