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LCQ5: Mainland study tours of subject of Citizenship and Social Development
     Following is a question by the Hon Rock Chen and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (March 22):
     According to the arrangements for Mainland study tours of the subject of Citizenship and Social Development (CS), schools are required to provide students with an opportunity to participate in Mainland study tours during the three years at the senior secondary level, so as to enable students to gain an understanding of national affairs and the development of the nation, and enhance their sense of national identity. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as there are views that the itineraries of most of the 22 CS Mainland study tours arranged by the Education Bureau (EDB) focus only on visits, and eight of them are even same-day return tours, the itineraries concerned allow only a shallow understanding from a fleeting glance due to long travelling time and unduly short time for the study tours, and students may not have a deep understanding of the visit contents, whether the EDB will review the relevant itineraries, as well as including more exchange activities and extending the duration of the tours; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether the EDB will arrange for senior secondary students to participate in at least one Mainland study tour a year; if so, when this will be implemented; and
(3) given that teachers and students participating in Mainland study tours can receive a full subsidy for the tour fees from the EDB, of the criteria for determining the amount of subsidy, whether a subsidy ceiling is set for each study tour or each teacher and student, and the estimated total expenditure involved each year?
     In the 2021/22 school year, the Education Bureau (EDB) replaced the Liberal Studies with Citizenship and Social Development (CS), which was implemented at Secondary Four in the 2021/22 school year and is extended to Secondary Five in this school year. The CS curriculum comprises three themes, namely "Hong Kong under 'One Country, Two Systems'", "Our Country since Reform and Opening-up" and "Interconnectedness and Interdependence of the Contemporary World", aiming to help students build a solid knowledge base, develop critical thinking, rational analysis and problem-solving skills, cultivate positive values and attitudes, and develop a sense of national identity through studying important topics relating to Hong Kong, our country and the contemporary world. As an integral part of the CS curriculum, CS Mainland study tours serve to enable students to realise the curriculum aims through experiential learning. By participating in field study activities, all senior secondary students can broaden their horizons, gain first-hand understanding of our country and its latest development, and understand and appreciate the achievements of our country and Chinese culture, thereby enhancing their sense of national identity.
     Our reply to the Hon Rock Chen's question is as follows:
(1) During the epidemic, the EDB continued to make preparation and plans for the activities of CS Mainland study tours, including devising itineraries which are aligned with the curriculum, collecting information about schools' overall planning and arrangements and preparing related curriculum support measures.  The EDB informed schools in July 2022 that more than 20 routes, including locations within and beyond the Guangdong Province, from two to five days would be provided for schools' selection. Despite the fact that the epidemic remained severe and CS Mainland study tours could not be launched in 2022, the EDB has kept reviewing the relevant arrangements, with a view to promptly launching the tours as far as practicable.
     With full resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland from February 6, 2023, the EDB immediately announced the latest arrangements for CS Mainland study tours for the 2022/23 school year on February 9, including first launching the 12 originally planned tours to the Guangdong Province and additionally introducing 10 tours from one day to three days to the Guangdong Province, including cities in the Greater Bay Area. The EDB has made the arrangements with students' learning needs as a prime consideration and has drawn reference to the views of stakeholders from the school sector. The EDB has also exercised professional judgement, closely liaised with relevant Mainland authorities, and taken into account the actual situation at the initial stage of full resumption of face-to-face classes as well as resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland, with a view to allowing current Secondary Five students to participate in the tours soonest possible so as to complete the curriculum. As Mainland exchange activities have been suspended for two years due to the epidemic, the demands for such activities have piled up. It is anticipated that schools need to deploy more manpower to take care of the students participating in cross-boundary exchanges. Apart from providing extra quotas of accompanying teachers and arranging professional advisory services, including assisting schools in leading students to undergo the exchanges and conducting briefing and post-trip experience sharing sessions, the EDB has introduced more routes for schools' selection. Positive feedback on Mainland study tours has been received from schools so far, and it is expected that around 50 000 senior secondary students, Secondary Five students in particular, will participate in the study tours from April to August.
     As a matter of fact, the tours spanning over a longer period will cover more visiting spots, resulting in richer learning content and experiences. However, owing to the epidemic, around 50 000 students need to complete the respective part of learning in CS Mainland study tours in the remaining four months of this school year. After deliberating with the school sector and considering factors such as the teaching arrangement of schools, deployment of teachers and reception load of the Mainland and Hong Kong, the EDB has decided to additionally introduce one-day tours. In fact, CS Mainland study tours are closely linked to the themes of the curriculum.  Whether the tours span over one, two or three days, they integrate with the CS curriculum. Students will have an understanding of related topics before the tours and teachers will guide students to think and help them set the learning focuses of the tours through classroom teaching. Under teachers' guidance and through the pre-tour preparations, students can observe and record during the tour and connect, integrate and apply the learning focuses of the CS curriculum after the tour, so as to complete project learning, demonstrate their learning outcomes and self-reflection and deepen the experiences gained from the Mainland study tours. Therefore, regardless of the duration, CS Mainland study tours are meaningful learning with clear targets and methods.   
     The EDB will review and conclude the implementation of CS Mainland study tours in a timely manner, and take forward, adjust and optimise the arrangements pragmatically in light of students' learning needs, school situations, views of the participants, actual operation, etc. We will proactively consider including routes to locations beyond the Guangdong Province with a longer duration to broaden students' horizons.
(2)  In line with the principles of prudent use of public funds and fairness, the EDB will arrange for each senior secondary student studying CS to participate in a Mainland study tour once, with the cost to be borne by the EDB. Senior secondary students studying CS and participating in the study tours under the CS curriculum will receive full subsidy once. Schools must observe the stipulated teacher-to-student ratio and arrange for their teachers, including the principals, to be the accompanying teachers who will be fully subsidised by the EDB. The expenses include those for visiting activities, meals, accommodation and transportation.
     Apart from CS Mainland study tours, the EDB has all along been organising (Note 1) Mainland exchange programmes in line with our country's latest development and school curriculum for primary and secondary students and subsidising (Note 2) those organised by schools with diversified themes to enable students to gain first-hand experience from multiple perspectives of the development of our country in various aspects, deepen what they have learnt in the classroom and enhance their sense of national identity. The EDB provides about 100 000 exchange quotas every year, which are sufficient for every student to join at least one Mainland exchange programme in the respective primary and secondary stages. Schools can also make use of the recurrent Life-wide Learning Grant, Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant and Grant for the Sister School Scheme, and the one-off CS Grant to subsidise students to participate in exchange learning activities. In addition, many groups and organisations organise Mainland exchange and study tours for students from time to time, providing opportunities for senior secondary students to take part in Mainland study tours.
(3) The EDB conducts procurement in accordance with the established mechanism of the Government in commissioning service providers to organise CS Mainland study tours. The tour fee is determined by the contract awarded to the service provider, and is subject to the itineraries of individual tours, duration, distance of the visiting cities, transportation costs, etc. The estimated expenditures for CS Mainland study tours in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 school years are $60 million and $116 million respectively.
     Thank you, President.
Note 1: The EDB organises student Mainland exchange programmes covering diversified themes, and commissions external organisations to undertake services such as transportation, accommodation and exchange activities. Major programmes organised include Mainland Exchange Programme for Junior Secondary and Upper Primary Students, Mainland Exchange Programme for Secondary School Students and Mainland Exchange Programme – An Exploration into Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Cities.
Note 2: The EDB subsidises schools to organise school-based Mainland exchange activities through the Junior Secondary and Upper Primary School Students Exchange Programme Subsidy Scheme: "Understanding Our Motherland" and the Senior Secondary School Students Mainland Exchange Programme Subvention Scheme, with a view to enabling students to gain first-hand understanding on the history and culture of our country and the latest development in various aspects, widening their horizons and enhancing their national identity.
Ends/Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:40
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