HONG KONG – A milestone in overhauling Hong Kong’s education system was taken this week, as high school 4 students begin studying a new subject that aims to teach young people positive values and foster greater appreciation of city and nation development, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said Wednesday.
High schools began introducing the new subject, named “Citizenship and Social Development”, to fourth-year students at the start of the new semester on September 1.
“The implementation of the new topic will be our priority because it is not only new but also very important,” Yeung said in a group interview.
The new subject will be extended to more high schools and for students in other classes in the future, Yeung said, adding that the Education Bureau will collect feedback from schools, teachers and students to identify problems and ways to improve the program.
Reviews so far have been positive, he said.
The subject of citizenship and social development presents several new features compared to its predecessor, liberal studies.
The curriculum will be standardized and consists of three modules, each covering a main theme: Hong Kong under “one country, two systems”, the country since reform and opening up, and the interconnectedness and interdependence of the contemporary world.
This practice contrasts with that of liberal studies, where schools and teachers were largely free to choose what to teach, a method that had caused great concern among local educators and parents.
To enrich the learning experience of the students, there will be exchange activities on the Chinese mainland for the students to gain knowledge on various aspects such as history and geography, Yeung said. The timing will depend on the pandemic situation and the reopening of the border between Hong Kong and the mainland.
For now, fourth year secondary students will focus on the first theme of the course, Hong Kong under “one country, two systems”. They will learn about the history of Hong Kong, the promulgation of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR, as well as the latest developments in the country.
Yeung estimated that in a year, schools will be ready to teach the course to Secondary V students and cover the other two themes of the program. By May, he expects there will be published textbooks and more learning materials.
Liberal studies now abandoned have drawn much criticism for the poor quality of teaching and the inconsistency of textbooks and learning materials. Many people viewed liberal studies as one of the greatest woes plaguing Hong Kong’s education system, and they cited it as a major reason for the politicization of campuses and the radicalization of young people. Voices calling for its overhaul arose years ago and intensified after the 2019 social unrest that rocked the city, with alarming numbers of young people arrested.
The government announced the overhaul of the curriculum and the name of the new subject in April. The teaching time of the course will be 150 hours, much less than the 250 hours reserved for liberal studies. Examinations and assessment mechanisms will also be simplified, to relieve pressure on students, Yeung said.
The Education Office started providing training and teaching resources to teachers months ago. All new teachers hired since September 2020 must take a course in the professional code of conduct, as well as the basic law and the national security law for Hong Kong, said Yeung.
The office will organize short training tours across the continent for new teachers, another program that is waiting to begin after travel restrictions are lifted.
The successful implementation of the new subject will lie in achieving the goal of imparting knowledge, raising awareness among students of Hong Kong’s unique constitutional status and inspiring them to reflect on their national identity and embrace the bond between their city origin and country, Yeung said. .