Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung says the Education Bureau will continue to collect feedback on the new school subject titled "Citizenship and Social Development", during a group interview on Sept 8, 2021. (RAYMOND CHAN / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG – An important step in overhauling Hong Kong’s education system was taken this week, as Secondary Four students begin to study a new subject that aims to teach young people positive values and foster deeper appreciation of the city and the nation’s development, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Wednesday.
Secondary schools started to introduce the new subject, named “Citizenship and Social Development”, to fourth-year students at the start of the new semester on Sept 1.
“The implementation of the new subject will be our priority as it is not only new but also very important,” Yeung said in a group interview.
The new subject will be extended to more secondary schools and for students in other grades 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 curriculum.
So far, the reviews have been positive, he said.
The citizenship and social development subject has several new features compared with 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 interconnectedness and interdependence of the contemporary world.
This practice contrasts that of liberal studies, for which schools and teachers were largely at liberty to choose what to teach, a method that had spurred wide concern among local educators and parents.
To enrich students’ learning experience, there will be exchange activities to the Chinese mainland for students to gain knowledge about diverse aspects such as history and geography, Yeung said. The timetable will depend on the pandemic situation and the reopening of Hong Kong-mainland border.
For now, fourth-year secondary school students will focus on the first theme of the course, Hong Kong under “one country, two systems”. They will learn about Hong Kong’s history, the promulgation of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the establishment of the HKSAR, as well as the latest developments in the country.
Yeung estimated that in a year’s time, schools will be ready to teach the course to Secondary Five students, and cover the other two themes of the curriculum. By May, he expects there will be published textbooks and more learning materials.
The now-scrapped liberal studies drew widespread criticism for the poor quality of teaching and lack of uniformity in textbooks and learning materials. Many people saw liberal studies as one of the biggest woes afflicting Hong Kong’s education system, and they named it as a significant reason for campus politicization and youth radicalization. Voices calling for its overhaul emerged years ago, and intensified after the 2019 social unrest shook the city, with an alarming number of young people arrested.
The government announced the curriculum overhaul 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 set aside for liberal studies. Exams and assessment mechanisms will also be simplified, to relieve the pressure on students, Yeung said.
The Education Bureau began to provide training and teaching resources for teachers months ago. All new teachers hired since September 2020 must attend a course on the professional code of conduct, as well as on the Basic Law and the National Security Law for Hong Kong, Yeung said.
The bureau will organize short training tours to the mainland for new teachers, another program waiting to start after travel restrictions are lifted.
Successful implementation of the new subject will lie in achieving the objective to impart knowledge, enhance students’ awareness of Hong Kong’s unique constitutional status, and inspire them to reflect on their national identity and embrace the connection between their home city and the country, Yeung said.