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LCQ11: Classification of primary and secondary school subjects as compulsory and independent compulsory subjects
     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (November 29):

​     At present, certain subjects at primary and secondary levels are classified as compulsory subjects and independent compulsory subjects by the Education Bureau (EDB). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the party who is responsible for deciding whether a certain subject should be classified as a compulsory, independent compulsory or other types of subject, as well as the procedure and criteria to be followed in making such a decision;
(2) of the respective compulsory subjects and independent compulsory subjects at various primary and secondary levels at present; whether the relevant classification is applicable to schools of various finance types (including government, aided, caput, Direct Subsidy Scheme, as well as special schools);
(3) whether schools of various finance types are required to set class arrangements and teaching timetables according to the EDB's classification of subjects;
(4) of the documents and channels through which the EDB informs school management and teachers of the lists of compulsory subjects and independent compulsory subjects; and
(5) as the Chief Executive has indicated in the Policy Address delivered by her last month that the Government will "include Chinese history as an independent compulsory subject for the junior secondary level" in the next school year, whether the Government has consulted the stakeholders before making that decision; if so, of the mechanisms through which and the dates on which the consultation was conducted; if not, the reasons for that; whether the Curriculum Development Council discussed the relevant arrangements beforehand; if so, of the dates and outcome of such discussion; if not, the reasons for that?


​     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen is as follows:
(1) to (4) To promote students' lifelong learning and all-round development, the Education Bureau (EDB) provides schools with a flexible and open curriculum framework covering eight Key Learning Areas (KLAs) and suggested lesson time. According to their mission, characteristics and the needs of their students, schools may offer appropriate subjects at different learning stages at the primary and secondary levels, as well as allocate and integrate the suggested lesson time flexibly to provide students with broad and balanced learning experiences.
​     Most subject contents covered by the eight KLAs can be regarded as "compulsory". At different learning stages, individual KLAs are handled differently. For example, at the primary to junior secondary levels, English Language Education, Mathematics Education and Physical Education cover only one subject each, which can be regarded as "independent compulsory" on its own. The General Studies for primary schools, consisting of Science Education, Personal, Social and Humanities Education (PSHE) as well as Technology Education, is a cross-KLA subject. Other KLAs have more than one subject. For example, at the primary to junior secondary levels, Chinese Language Education comprises Chinese Language and Putonghua while Arts Education covers at least two subjects, i.e. Visual Arts and Music. They are normally taught in an independent subject mode.
​     At the junior secondary level, Science Education is generally taught through the Science subject while PSHE may comprise a number of subjects, including Economics and Public Affairs (EPA), Life and Society (L&S), Religious Education, Geography, Chinese History and History. For these subjects in which parts of the contents are similar, such as for L&S and EPA, schools usually offer either one of the two. Apart from stipulating that schools need to offer Chinese History as an independent subject, the EDB has not specified any other subjects under this KLA to be taught as independent subjects. As regards Technology Education, a modular approach is recommended for flexibility in curriculum organisation.
​     As for the senior secondary curriculum, there are four core subjects, i.e. Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies, which are compulsory for all students. Students may also take other elective subjects according to their interests and abilities.
​     To help schools and teachers grasp the curriculum arrangements of various KLAs/subjects, we disseminate and elaborate relevant information through our website, circular memoranda and professional development programmes, etc. Schools and teachers can also learn more about the specific requirements and suggested lesson time for various learning stages from the Basic Education Curriculum Guide (Primary 1-6) (2014), the Secondary Education Curriculum Guide (2017) and various KLA/subject guides, etc. Apart from schools for children with intellectual disability that offer an adapted curriculum, the curriculum arrangements and suggested allocation of lesson time for various KLAs are applicable to all public sector schools and schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme.
(5) Since the issue of the Syllabuses for Secondary Schools: Chinese History (Secondary 1-3) in 1997, schools have been providing Chinese history education accordingly. The PSHE Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (the Guide) published in 2002 clearly states that "students in all types of schools will study Chinese history and culture, which is part of the Essential Content for Learning in PSHE". The Guide allows schools to provide Chinese history education in an independent subject mode or other modes (e.g. History and Culture). So far, over 90% of secondary schools offer Chinese History in an independent subject mode, while about 40 secondary schools incorporate Chinese history and world history into the subject of History and Culture, or adopt an integrated curriculum mode to teach Chinese history. From the above, it is evident that teaching Chinese History as a compulsory independent subject is a prevailing trend that aligns with the direction of the Policy Address. Over the years, the public have actively sought to make Chinese History an independent subject at the junior secondary level. The Legislative Council (LegCo) even passed a motion on "Requiring the teaching of Chinese History as an independent subject at junior secondary level" in the meeting held on November 16, 2016. The announcement made in the 2017 Policy Address that Chinese History be included as an independent subject has addressed the requests of the community and the LegCo.
​     Given that about 40 secondary schools still adopt other modes in implementing Chinese history education, the EDB invited all these schools and met with them between September and October 2017. During these meetings, representatives from these schools expressed that they understood the need to make changes and supported the provision of Chinese history education; but asked for flexibility and time to make the transition. We understand the needs and unique circumstances of these schools in respect of staffing arrangements, and the learning barriers of non-Chinese speaking students in studying Chinese History, etc. In this connection, we will allow them flexibility and time to make a smooth transition taking into full account their situations. Regarding the said arrangements, the EDB has made it clear on various occasions, such as the consultation session on the revised junior secondary Chinese History curriculum and Principals' Liaison Meetings, that reasonable and appropriate transitional arrangements will be made for these schools to address their concerns. The EDB will maintain communication with schools to provide appropriate support.
Ends/Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:38
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