|Responses to the Consultation Document of the Task Force on Review of School Curriculum (Consultation Document)
16 October 2019
Task Force on Review of School Curriculum
Room 1301, 13/F Wu Chung House
213 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
The Task Force on Review of School Curriculum (Task Force) was set up in November 2017 to holistically review the primary and secondary curricula and make directional recommendations on –
- How to enhance students’ capacity to learn and nurture in them the values and qualities desired for students of the 21st century
- How to better cater for students’ diverse abilities, interests, needs and aspirations;
- How to optimize the curriculum in creating space and opportunities for students’ whole-person development
- How to better articulate learning at the primary and secondary levels
The above four aspects are generally recognized by the education field as pressing issues that require due attention for solutions. We are pleased to see, with anticipation, the formation of the Task Group to look for the direction of change and strategies to address these long-time issues.
After 18 months of discussion and consultation, the Task Group published the Consultation Document in July 2019 and proposed 6 directional recommendations. Below are the responses of the Executive Committee of the HKAHSS to the recommendations.
Whole-person Development and Values Education
The Consultation Document raises the need to create space for students’ whole-person development. At the same time, it points out that large amount of homework, tests and practice exercises would hamper balanced development. It further emphasizes the importance of moral and civic education, the nurturing of diverse talents and resilience, as well as life education and life planning education (LPE). These topics of issues are of paramount importance to our students today. Yet, how do we bring forth the favourable learning environment to actualize whole-person development in our students? How do we create the necessary space to allow for the smooth implementation of life education and life planning education? While dishing out such methods as school visits, lesson inspections and preparing more “life events” exemplars by the Education Bureau (EDB), and providing professional training, the Consultation Document has made no mention about adjustments at the level of education system and overall curriculum planning.
We agreed to the necessity of strengthening Whole-person Development and Values Education in a comprehensive manner, but the strategic strength of the proposals is far from adequate. Putting the responsibility of creating space on schools is mistakenly a wrong focus. As to what substance constitutes Whole-person Development and what key concerns are in Values Education, they still need clearer elaboration.
Creating Space and Catering for Learner Diversity
The Executive Committee of HKAHSS has repeatedly commented that the current senior secondary curriculum is “too much, too wide, too deep”. Solutions recommended in the Consultation Document to allow greater flexibility for creating space to cater for student diversity included trimming the syllabus of the four core subjects, reducing the number of examination papers, differentiating the assessment level with two papers in which the highest level are set at Level 4 for the easier version while level 5** for a more different version, and opting out IES in Liberal studies (highest level: 4).
Whether or not these proposals would truly help create space hinges on the arrangement details. Would students be too concerned about their university offers that they would rather choose the “lighter” curriculum at the early stage of their senior secondary study? By what time at their senior secondary study will they be required to make the choice? What admission requirements in the core subjects and electives will universities adopt? Whether the recommendations will result in more space for students? These are critical questions to answer.
Making some adjustments to the senior secondary curriculum will perhaps help those students who have set their mind on university studies. Yet, the abilities of students are diverse. For those who will not make it to universities, the Task Group has not given them enough consideration.
The HKAHSS has reiterated time and again the importance of multiple entry-and-exit pathway to address the needs of diverse learners. Not every student is academically inclined or aspiring to pursue university studies. Can there be some ways to allow students to enter into a career path or to divert to other occupation-oriented programmes at different stages of their senior secondary schooling? Can our education system provide them with bridging programmes or a separate assessment system to allow students to gracefully exit and re-enter the senior secondary structure?
University Admission, VPET and Applied Learning
University admissions have significant impact on the teaching and learning in schools and the design of assessment. Students’ opportunities to receive tertiary education has always been our concern. Hong Kong is an international city centering much on knowledge-based economic development. However, government-subsidized university places have for years kept at the level of about 15000 (less than 30% of examination candidates). The figure is far below our neighbournig countries or other cities in mainland China. While the performance of Hong Kong students has ranked among the top in such international assessments as PISA and TIMSS, our students are deprived of the opportunity for university education.
Another issue deserves undeniable attention. Currently students must attain a General Entrance Requirement (GER) of 3322 in the core subjects to satisfy the basic admission requirement to universities. For many years, the number of male students attaining the GER is lower than that of female students. The 2018 data show that male students attaining the GER or above was 29.7% while that of female students was 45.5%. Unless we are prepared to accept significantly lower male admissions to universities than female admissions, how can we refrain from reviewing the basic requirement for university admissions?
The Consultation Document also suggested giving each school an additional quota of two nominations in the School Principal Nomination (SPN) scheme under which students with talents and achievements can be nominated in non-academic realms for designated programmes proposed by universities. Even if adopted, the increased number of university offers is still merely 15,000. It is by no means significant enough to alter the norm of examination result-based admissions. While the measure could only benefit a small number of students, we do recognize it is better than total exclusion of non-academic achievements.
As regards VPET and Applied Learning (ApL), the directional recommendations of the Task Force is correct. However the major obstacle comes from the universities as recognition of ApL results varies among universities. The other obstacle is the heavy study load of students. It would be difficult for them to undertake ApL on top of the four core subjects plus the 2 or 3 electives.
The Task Force recommended the stepping up STEM education in primary and secondary schools by setting up a designated committee to oversee the long term development of STEM education, including its interface at the primary and secondary levels. It also proposed defining the framework of STEM education more clearly and enhancing the support for schools implementing STEM education. However, according to experts in the arena, the core of STEM education lies in the education of mathematics and science in order to build a solid foundation of knowledge, without which integration and application cannot be achieved.
We appreciate the recommendations made by the Task Force on curriculum development. However, they do not seem to have given due coverage for “how to better articulate learning at the primary and secondary levels”, which is part of their terms of reference. Furthermore, little has been said on “how to enhance students’ capacity to learn and nurture in them the values and qualities desired for students of the 21st century” and thus leaving ample rooms for discussion. If the Document is merely part of an ongoing process of curriculum review, and not a concluding review of the curriculum reform, then it is clear why numerous issues are still not adequately addressed and their answers pending for further deliberation. As to how the recommendations made are to be actualized, and which institution is to be assigned with the duty to monitor the implementation and effects, the Task Force has suggested it “to be followed up under the existing mechanism by the advisory bodies or organizations such as the CDC and HKEAA”. If that is the case, we would find it even more worrying – when will Hong Kong school curriculum be able to make the necessary and effective change?
Tang Chun Keung
皇后大道東 213 號
胡忠大廈 13 樓 1301 室
「學校課程檢討專責小組」成立於 2017 年 11 月，主要工作範圍是整體檢討中、小學課程，並就以下各項提出方向性建議：
經過了 18 個月的討論及諮詢，委員會於二零一九年六月發表「諮詢文件」，提出六個方向的建議。香港中學校長會執委會對此有以下意見：
我們認同「全人發展」及「價值觀教育」須全面加強，但提出的策略力度嚴重不足； 將創造足夠空間的責任交給學校，明顯地對焦錯誤；至於「全人發展」的內容如何， 與及「價值觀教育」的重點何在，還需要更明確的闡釋。
大學收生條件影響著學校教與學及評估設計，我們一直關注香港學生接受專上教育機會。香港作為一個國際化城市，以知識型經濟發展為本，但為學生提供資助大學學位的數目多年來仍維持在 15,000 左右（少於考生人數的 30%），遠低於香港毗鄰的國家或中國城市。據不同國際評估如 PISA、TIMSS，香港學生對比世界各地，表現一直位列前茅，但我們的學生卻不能擁有同樣入讀大學的機會。
另一個不可勿視的問題是按目前 3322 作為入讀大學基線，已連續多年出現考獲大學資格的男女生數字失衡，2018 年的數據顯示核心科目考獲 3322 或以上的男生只有 29.7%，而女生則有 45.5%，除非我們接受入讀大學的男生數字長期、嚴重低於女生，否則又怎可不重新檢視入讀大學的基本要求？
諮詢文件亦提出增加每校兩個額外推薦名額，讓校長推薦在非學術範疇才能出眾並取得成就的學生。若以 15000 個入讀名額來看，推薦學生數目之少，實在難以動搖以考試成績作為單一入學準則這傳統。然而，受惠學生數目雖少，仍然比完全不考
STEM 教 育
專責小組建議為加強中、小學 STEM 教育，須另成立專責委員會，督導本港 STEM 教育的長遠發展，包括中、小學銜接安排，並須更清晰界定 STEM 教育，與及加強支援以協助學校推行 STEM 教育。但據這方面的專家所言，STEM 教育的核心在數學、科學教育，能為學生打好數學及科學的根基，才可談綜合及應用。