The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and
Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong
Education and Manpower Bureau
A Message from Secretary for Education and Manpower
In October 2004 we launched a 3-month consultation on the design blueprint, timing of implementation and financial arrangements of the new academic structure, which comprises a 3-year school curriculum at senior secondary level and a 4-year undergraduate programme at university. We are grateful to all those who have sent in their feedback or expressed their views on how to take the matter forward. I am pleased that the community has expressed overwhelming support for the new academic structure. To allow the school sector ample time for the preparatory work, we have now decided to implement the new academic structure in 2009.
The changes we are about to embark upon represent a landmark in our education history. We hope to provide all students with the opportunity to receive a higher standard of education, and to provide them with a more suitable curriculum catering to their individual needs and abilities, so as to help them to pave their way to success.
Reforming the academic structure entails wide-ranging changes which have far-reaching implications for the whole community. Success in implementation requires the attainment of the critical pre-conditions including the development of a new senior secondary curriculum, a new public examination and assessment mechanism, smooth interface with university programmes and articulation with different pathways for further studies, vocational training and employment. Success also hinges on the firm commitment and concerted efforts of the education sector and the community as a whole.
This Report sets out the road map for introducing the new academic structure.
It guides us in our preparation in the next few years, and takes us forward to the second stage of consultation with the school sector on details regarding the design of the curriculum and assessment frameworks of the new senior secondary subjects. We will continue our dialogue with stakeholders on various matters where further development is required.
I am delighted that the community has reached a consensus on the future direction of education. The challenge is whether we are willing to make joint efforts and commitment. I am sure we can create a better future for our younger generation if we always have their well-being as our top priority and make concerted efforts to develop our new academic structure.
Professor Arthur K.C. Li
AL Advanced Level
API Announcements of public interest
ASL Advanced Supplementary Level
C&A Curriculum and Assessment CDC Curriculum Development Council
COC Career-Oriented Curriculum (pilot of the Career-oriented Studies)
COS Career-oriented Studies
CPD Continuing Professional Development
EC Education Commission
EMB Education and Manpower Bureau ESL English as a Second Language EYE Extension of Years of Education
GM Graduate Master
HI Hearing impaired
HKALE Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination HKCAA Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation HKCEE Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination HKDSE Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education
HKEAA Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority HKedCity Hong Kong Education City
HKSAR Hong Kong Special Administrative Region HUCOM Heads of Universities Committee
HWFB Health, Welfare and Food Bureau
IB International Baccalaureate
IE Integrated Education
IELTS International English Language Testing System
IEP Individualised Education Programmes
IT Information technology
JSEA Junior Secondary Education Assessment
KLA Key Learning Area
MH Mentally handicapped
MOI Medium of instruction
NET Native-speaking English Teachers
NGO Non-government Organisation
NSS New Senior Secondary
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development One Committee CDC-HKEAA Committee
P1/2/3/4/5/6 Primary 1/2/3/4/5/6
PD Physically disabled
PISA Programme for International Student Assessment
PTA Parent-teacher Association
PYJ Project Yi Jin
QA Quality assurance
RASIH Review of the Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Interface with Higher Education
REO Regional Education Offices S1/2/3/4/5/6/7 Secondary 1/2/3/4/5/6/7
SBA School-based Assessment
SBCTS School-based Curriculum Tailoring Scheme SBRSP School-based Remedial Support Programme
SCOLAR Standing Committee on Language Education and Research SEN Special Educational Needs
SES Socio-economic Status
SpLD Specific Learning Difficulty
SRA Standards-referenced Assessment
SS1/2/3 Senior Secondary 1/2/3
SSPA Secondary School Places Allocation
SWD Social Welfare Department
UCLES University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate UGC University Grants Committee
VI Visually impaired
VTC Vocational Training Council
A Message from Secretary for Education and Manpower
Chapter 1 Introduction – Community Participation in “3+3+4” ... 1
Background ... 1
Public Consultation – A Multiple-strategy and Multiple-stakeholder Approach ... 1
Consultation Process and Feedback ... 2
Purpose of the Report... 4
Organisation of the Report ... 4
Chapter 2 The Policy Contexts, Purpose and Guiding Principles – Better Learning for ALL... 6
The Policy Contexts ... 6
Original Proposal... 9
Support ... 12
The Way Forward... 13
Chapter 3 Curriculum (I): Whole-Person Development and Developing Individual Potentials ... 15
(A) Continuity of Curriculum Reform in Basic Education (P1 – S3) with NSS ... 16
(B) Curriculum Framework and Choices in NSS... 17
(C) Liberal Studies... 24
(D) The Knowledge Base, Chinese Culture, Sciences and Other Proposed Elements of Learning ... 25
(E) Language Standards, Putonghua and Other Languages ... 27
(F) Catering for Learner Differences and Students with Special Educational Needs... 28
(G) Development of Career-oriented Studies ... 29
(H) Time Allocation... 30
(I) Names of Subjects... 32
(J) Further Consultation and Guidance... 32
Chapter 4 Curriculum (II): Liberal Studies as a New Core Subject ... 34
(A) The Position of Liberal Studies in the NSS Curriculum ... 35
(B) Balancing Breadth and Depth ... 36
(C) Curriculum Design, Framework and Time Allocation... 37
(D) Knowledge Base and Connection with Skills, Attitudes and Values, and
Rational Thinking... 39
(E) The Issue-enquiry Approach ... 41
(F) Assessment and Examination... 43
(G) Student Access to Learning Opportunities ... 46
(H) Professional Capacity of Teachers and Schools ... 47
(I) Development of Learning and Teaching Resources... 49
(J) Reference to International Research and Development ... 50
Chapter 5 Curriculum (III): Career-oriented Studies – Applied Learning and an Integral Part of the New Senior Secondary Curriculum... 52
(A) The Position of Career-oriented Studies in the NSS Curriculum... 54
(B) Recognition ... 58
(C) Provision, Funding and Student Choice... 61
(D) Support to Students ... 63
(E) An Adequate and Competent Teaching Force... 65
Chapter 6 Stretching Student Potential and Catering for Learner Differences ... 67
(A) Special Education... 67
(B) Gifted Education ... 76
(C) Resource Commitment... 79
Chapter 7 Assessment and Certification ... 80
(A) The Single Credential... 81
(B) Standards-referenced Reporting... 82
(C) School-based Assessment... 83
(D) Recognition of the HKDSE... 86
(E) Senior Secondary Student Learning Profile ... 88
Chapter 8 Interface between Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education, and Articulation with Local and Overseas Education Systems ... 90
(A) University Admission... 91
(B) International Benchmarking and Recognition... 94
(C) Articulation to Post-secondary Studies and Vocational Training Institutions... 97
(D) Moving to 4-year University Programmes... 97
Chapter 9 Supporting Measures (I): Enhancing the Teaching Profession... 100
(A) Professional Development Programmes for Teachers and Principals... 100
(B) Learning Communities... 107
(C) Teachers As Key Change Agents ... 108
Chapter 10 Supporting Measures (II): Textbooks, Quality Learning and
Teaching Resources ... 110
Original proposal... 110
Support ... 110
The Way Forward... 111
Chapter 11 Supporting Measures (III): Provision of School Places, Class Size, Class Structures, and Teacher-to-class Ratios and Related Matters ... 115
(A) Provision of School Places... 115
(B) Class Size ... 117
(C) Class Structures ... 118
(D) Teacher-to-class Ratios and Related Matters ... 119
(E) Aided Special Schools... 126
Chapter 12: Supporting Measures (IV): Funding ... 128
Original proposal... 128
Support ... 129
The Way Forward... 130
Chapter 13 Managing Change: Participation, Communication, Critical Milestones and Coherence-making ... 135
(A) Participation and Communication... 135
(B) Communication Means ... 140
(C) Critical Milestones and Coherence-making ... 141
Appendix 1: Summary of Major Concerns Consultation on Reforming the Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education... 147
Appendix 2: Summary of EMB Survey Findings... 161
Appendix 3: Proposed New Senior Secondary Subjects... 171
Appendix 4: Comparison of Number of School Days at Senior Secondary Levels across Different Countries... 172
Appendix 5: School-based Assessment in HKCEE and HKALE Subjects ... 173
Appendix 6: Glossary... 174
Bibliography ... 177
Figure 2.1: Pathways to Life-long Learning... 11
Figure 3.1: Continuity of Curriculum Reform across Basic Education and New Senior Secondary Education... 16
Figure 3.2: Progression of Studies at Senior Secondary Levels ... 22
Figure 5.1: A Continuum of Theoretical and Applied Learning... 56
Table 3.1: Student Programme under NSS... 15
Table 3.2: Time Allocation... 31
Table 13.1: Critical Milestones for Key Actions... 144
Chapter 1 Introduction – Community Participation in “3+3+4”
1.1 In 2000, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) endorsed the recommendation of the Education Commission (EC) to adopt a 3-year senior secondary and 4-year undergraduate academic system (“3+3+4”) to facilitate the implementation of a more flexible, coherent and diversified senior secondary curriculum. A Working Group was then set up by EC on the Review of the Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Interface with Higher Education (RASIH). In 2003, the Working Group made further recommendations on the development of a new curriculum, assessment and examination and on university admissions. In his 2004 Policy Address, the Chief Executive accepted the recommendations and undertook to consult the public on the implementation details.
Public Consultation – A Multiple-strategy and Multiple-stakeholder Approach
1.2 The Main Document entitled Reforming the Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education – Actions for Investing in the Future was published on 20 October 2004. This was followed by a 3-month period of public consultation to seek the views of different stakeholders from the education and other community sectors on the design blueprint, timetable for implementation and financial arrangements.
1.3 In view of the complexity of the issues and the far-reaching implications for our senior secondary and higher education, it was recognised that a single-round consultation would not be sufficient. The first consultation exercise, which ended in January 2005, focused on the design blueprint including the curriculum and assessment framework, together with the broad frameworks for individual subjects. A second consultation exercise focusing on the
curriculum and assessment details for each subject will be conducted around June 2005. There will be an on-going dialogue with relevant parties as details are developed for Career-oriented Studies (COS) and special education under the new senior secondary (NSS) structure, and for university admission criteria.
1.4 A multiple-strategy and multiple-stakeholder approach was adopted in the public consultation exercise with various sectors of the community, which involved both dissemination activities such as publications, web-based information and media publicity programmes as well as interactive activities such as consultation sessions/forums, meetings, school visits, media programmes and telephone conversations.
Consultation Process and Feedback
1.5 Over 20,000 copies of the Main Document and executive summary and over one million copies of the pamphlet were issued during the 3-month consultation period. In addition, a pamphlet on Liberal Studies was issued to parents of all students. Members of the public were also invited to visit the “3+3+4”
Homepage on the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) website (http://www.emb.gov.hk) to view various documents.
1.6 To arouse public awareness of the reform, three announcements of public interest (APIs) were broadcast on television and radio during the consultation period. A series of television and radio programmes, including a mini programme on the RoadShow, were also produced to introduce the new academic structure.
1.7 EMB conducted a total of 115 briefing sessions, seminars or focus group discussions for principals, teachers, parents, school sponsoring bodies, Legislative Councillors and District Councillors. In addition, EMB representatives attended about 60 consultation events organised by various
parties including the Legislative Council, Parent-teacher Associations (PTAs), non-government organisations (NGOs), tertiary institutions, educational, business and professional organisations. Over 20 meetings with staff and students of individual schools as well as representatives from school councils and educational bodies were also arranged.
1.8 During the consultation period, EMB received nearly 3,300 written submissions through mails, e-mails and fax from various stakeholders in the school sector, educational bodies, business and professional organisations, voluntary organisations and members of the public.
1.9 The “3+3+4” reform generated a great deal of public interest and discussion and was widely publicized and reported in the media. There were more than 360 editorial and featured articles in major Chinese and English newspapers. A daily column on the Hong Kong Economic Times was run to address the common concerns. Members of the public also expressed their views on the reform through the phone-in radio programmes. There is overwhelming support for the general direction, the vision and the goal of the proposed
“3+3+4” academic system. It is acknowledged that reducing one public examination would create more time for productive learning. There is general agreement that the new senior secondary curriculum will enable students to build a broader knowledge base and a more solid foundation for whole-person development and life-long learning.
1.10 To help individual schools prepare for the implementation of the new academic structure and senior secondary curriculum, officers from EMB’s Regional Education Offices (REO) visited every aided secondary school to hear the views of principals and teachers, understand their concerns and discuss with them the projected class structures of their schools and the year of implementation.
1.11 Throughout the 3-month consultation period, we met about 30,000 stakeholders to share their views and comments on the reform. A summary of major concerns is provided in Appendix 1.
1.12 In parallel with the publication of the Main Document and consultation activities, EMB conducted a questionnaire survey to collect the views of principals and teachers on the NSS structure, plans for offering proposed NSS subjects, the subject curriculum frameworks and the training needs of teachers.
A total of 476 questionnaires were sent out and 471 questionnaires (i.e. 98.7%) were returned. A summary of the survey findings is provided in Appendix 2.
Purpose of the Report
1.13 The purpose of this report is to chart the way forward based on the feedback received during the consultation exercise conducted between October 2004 and January 2005. Each chapter sets out the original proposal, major areas of support, concerns and the way forward for each area.
Organisation of the Report
1.14 This chapter sets out the background to the reform and describes the multiple-strategy and interactive approach adopted in the consultation exercise.
In Chapter 2, we restate and synthesize the policy contexts, the essential purposes and the principles underpinning the proposed changes.
1.15 Chapters 3 to 5 outline the new senior secondary curriculum framework and related issues, including Liberal Studies in Chapter 4 and Applied Learning in Chapter 5. In Chapter 6, suggestions on stretching the potential of every student and catering for learner differences under the new system are made.
1.16 Chapter 7 covers essential assessment and certification issues including the new credential: The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), School-based Assessment (SBA), Standards-referenced Assessment (SRA) and the Senior Secondary Student Learning Profile. Chapter 8 provides the most up-to-date information on the university admission criteria and other interface issues.
1.17 Chapters 9 to 12 cover the supporting measures to be provided by EMB in collaboration with schools and the wider education community, including
professional development programmes and learning/teaching materials in Chapters 9 and 10, and class size, teacher-to-class ratios, subsidies and funding in Chapters 11 and 12. Chapter 13 outlines how different stakeholders can contribute to the reform, the critical milestones, the year of implementation of the NSS academic structure, and the means of maintaining communication between the Government and the public.
Chapter 2 The Policy Contexts, Purpose and
Guiding Principles – Better Learning for ALL
The Policy Contexts
2.1 The following paragraphs offer a synthesis of the evolving contexts within which the current proposed reform took shape - the macro environment, the experiences gained from previous reforms, the strengths on which Hong Kong can build, and the challenges.
The macro environment
2.2 The new academic structure and associated curriculum and assessment changes are a response to the following characteristics in the macro environment:
(a) Globalisation, the explosive growth of knowledge, the advent of information technology (IT) and the development of a knowledge-based economy are leading to unprecedented worldwide changes. Hong Kong’s cultural, social and economic developments depend on whether the population can rise to these challenges and make the best use of the opportunities ahead.
(b) To sustain the development of Hong Kong as an international city amidst the economic restructuring and rapid development in Mainland China, Hong Kong citizens need to develop their adaptability, creativity, independent thinking and life-long learning capabilities.
(c) Hong Kong has become part of China after 1997. It is necessary to enable every student, as a citizen in Hong Kong, to have more in-depth knowledge of modern China and the world.
(d) A number of educational reform initiatives have been introduced at the basic education level particularly since 2000. The NSS academic structure is a necessary final step to realise in full the benefits of changes
(e) To address the requirements of an increasingly diverse and complex environment, Hong Kong needs to establish a vibrant and flexible education system that will provide an enabling environment for every person to attain all-round development and to achieve life-long learning.
Hong Kong’s education system needs to provide multiple progression pathways for further studies and career development, which articulate well with international higher education and the manpower requirements of the 21st Century.
Experience from previous reforms
2.3 The reform of the academic structure is built on the following experiences from previous reforms:
(a) The provision of 9-year compulsory education in 1978 was successful in providing for quantitative expansion of education to accommodate a rise in the school leaving age for all students to 15. To achieve substantial and qualitative change, it requires improvement to the curriculum, learning and teaching, assessment and the professional capacity of schools.
(b) Since October 2000, the Government has implemented a comprehensive programme of education reform to keep pace with change in the new millennium based on the recommendations of EC in Learning for Life, Learning through Life – Reform Proposal for the Education System in Hong Kong published in September 2000.
(c) Based on a holistic review of the school curriculum, the Curriculum Development Council’s (CDC’s) 2001 Report on Learning to Learn - The Way Forward in Curriculum Development set out the general directions for curriculum development in Hong Kong for the next ten years. In this, it seeks to realise the vision of enabling students to attain all-round development and life-long learning. In 2002, the CDC published the Basic Education Curriculum Guide - Building on Strengths to help
principals and teachers to reflect upon their strengths and decide how best to bring about curriculum reform within a flexible and coherent curriculum framework.
(d) We understand from previous reform experiences that it is necessary to undertake thorough and detailed planning on the pace, coherence of initiatives, professional capacity, funding modes, critical milestones and review. It is also necessary to generate a sense of participation and enthusiasm among stakeholders essential for the success of the reform.
(e) It is important to harness local strengths as far as possible in order to extend achievements across all stages of education.
Strengths and challenges of Hong Kong
2.4 The following are the strengths identified in and challenges faced by Hong Kong:
(a) The Government is committed to investment in education to ensure smooth transition to a knowledge-based economy.
(b) Parents and the community attach much importance to the education of our young people.
(c) By international standards, Hong Kong students achieve well in a number of areas. For example, Hong Kong students have attained well in international assessment schemes such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Class Arena organised by the Department for Education and Skills in the UK. Indeed, many of our schools have produced a large number of outstanding students who play key roles in society at local and international levels.
(d) Hong Kong has a diligent teaching force. The professionalism of teachers has been raised through a significant upgrading of qualifications and
participation in reforms over the past few years as reflected in the nature of discourse and a clearer focus on meeting the needs of student learning.
(e) Recent education and curriculum reforms have laid a solid foundation, with the education system becoming more flexible and diversified, and student learning more enjoyable and effective. In addition, a culture of continuing professional development and of sharing of good practices is gradually being established.
(f) The change to the academic structure and curriculum of senior secondary education and higher education is a colossal task that will require the concerted effort and commitment of the entire community. It also requires careful planning, co-ordination and commitment of resources.
(g) The community has high expectations of the reform which has wide-ranging and significant implications. Therefore, we need to have an effective and on-going communication with various stakeholders including parents and students to ensure that what is intended is properly communicated, appropriate adjustments are made, and progress is effectively understood.
(h) The reform is demanding on teachers. We need to encourage sharing among schools to identify effective means to maximise the professional capacity of teachers.
2.5 The main features of the proposed academic structure are as follows:
(a) To provide a “3+3” secondary education structure, so that ALL students benefit from 6 years of secondary education.
(b) To replace the current two high-stake examinations – the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and the Hong Kong
Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) – by ONE examination to be taken at the end of the senior secondary stage.
(c) To introduce a new senior secondary curriculum framework which comprises 3 components:
Students will take 4 core subjects, i.e. Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies.
Students will take 2 to 3 elective subjects among a total of 20 senior secondary subjects and/or COS subjects.
Other learning experiences:
Students need to acquire non-academic learning experiences for whole-person development both within and outside school hours. They include moral and civic education, community service, work-related experiences, and aesthetic and physical/sporting activities.
(d) To introduce a wider range of approaches to assessment and reporting, including the use of moderated SBA, SRA and a student learning profile.
(e) To introduce a 4-year undergraduate programme.
2.6 The benefits of the new academic structure will be as follows:
(a) An extra year of secondary education will equip students better for further studies and in meeting the needs of an ever-changing society.
(b) The new curriculum is designed to enable all students to achieve enhanced language and mathematical abilities, a broadened knowledge base, increased competence in critical thinking, independent learning and interpersonal skills, and it will provide increased exposure to other learning experiences in moral, civic, physical and aesthetic areas.
(c) The new curriculum will be more coherent and offer greater diversity and choice to suit the different needs, interests and abilities of students.
(d) The new system will provide smoother multiple pathways to higher education and the workplace so that every student has an opportunity to succeed in life (see Figure 2.1).
Figure 2.1: Pathways to Life-long Learning
(e) By replacing the HKCEE and HKALE with a new and more comprehensive assessment system leading to a single diploma, and thus cutting out examination preparation time, there will be extra time for learning, and for effective remedial and enhancement programmes.
(f) As a result of including an SBA component in the public examination, the assessment of students’ abilities will be more comprehensive, particularly with regard to those skills that are not open to assessment in one-off written tests. It will also help to reduce the pressure on one public examination.
Further Professional Qualifications
(including associate degrees, higher diplomas and
(Holders may enter undergraduate programme in the 3rdyear.)
Further Studies / Work
Senior Secondary Education 4-year
(g) By adopting SRA which gives clear indication of what a student has to know and be able to do to attain a certain performance level, useful and relevant information on student achievement will be provided to various stakeholders including parents, educational institutions and employers.
(h) The higher education institutions will be in a better position to provide a balanced education to their students, through an integrated 4-year undergraduate programme, that allows for a broader knowledge base to support specialised learning.
(i) A “3+3+4” academic system will align Hong Kong with a number of other important national systems including Mainland China and the USA, and allow better articulation with them.
2.7 There is overwhelming support for the general direction, vision and goals of the proposed “3+3+4” academic structure for senior secondary and higher education.
2.8 The majority of respondents agree that the proposed new academic structure and the curriculum and assessment changes should go together.
2.9 It is acknowledged that the reduction in the number of public examinations in senior secondary level from two to one will create more time for learning.
2.10 The new “3+3+4” structure will provide a wider range of pathways towards further study. 6 years of secondary schooling will articulate better with a number of other major higher education systems around the world.
2.11 The public and education sector agree that the “3+3+4” academic structure and the curriculum reforms envisaged will enable students to build a broader knowledge base and a more solid foundation for whole-person development and life-long learning.
2.12 There are some concerns about the readiness of schools and teachers for the implementation of the reform in 2008, hence the suggestion that the reform of the academic structure should not proceed simultaneously with the reform of the curriculum and assessment.
2.13 The reform of the academic structure and senior secondary curriculum may impose a heavy workload on teachers, who have indicated a strong need for the provision of quality professional development opportunities and timely support for the implementation of the new curriculum.
The Way Forward
2.14 We have carefully considered the views collected during the consultation. In charting the way forward, we will be guided by the following principles:
(a) Decisions and practices are premised on the beliefs that all students have the ability to learn. Students should be provided with a wide range of different learning experiences for whole-person development.
(b) Diversified learning, teaching and assessment should be used to suit the different needs, interests and abilities of students.
(c) All students should be provided with an enabling environment conducive to their development as self-regulated life-long learners. A learner-centred approach should be used in order to make decisions in the best interests of students.
(d) Planning and strategies should be built on existing strengths and implemented at the right pace, taking into account the readiness of teachers, school contexts and the characteristics of the students.
(e) Due consideration should be given to local contexts and needs. Capacity should be built up through staged experiential approaches and periodic review.
(f) There is a need to strike a balance between different purposes and practices, competing interests and conflicting views to ensure smooth delivery in the best interests of students.
(g) The process of change will be carefully monitored making use of critical milestones and evidence to ensure timely and quality support for schools and teachers.
Chapter 3 Curriculum (I): Whole-Person Development and Developing Individual Potentials
This chapter provides information on the broader school curriculum and outlines what will be explored in the 2nd consultation exercise on curriculum and assessment to be conducted in June 2005. It provides information on some of the more controversial issues such as Liberal Studies, the sciences and subjects that may not be widely offered, hence are likely to have impact on the whole student programme. The feedback received during the 1st consultation period regarding the detail of individual subject frameworks will be addressed in the 2nd consultation exercise.
3.1 The Main Document recommends seven learning goals (para. 3.12) and a student programme (see Table 3.1) for whole-person development to develop the potential of each student. The following student programme (the whole-school curriculum) is recommended for all students. Please refer to Appendix 3 for the proposed subjects within the NSS curriculum.
Table 3.1: Student Programme under NSS
Components of NSS Student Programme % of Time Allocation
Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies as core subjects for ALL students
2 or 3 elective subjects chosen from 20 NSS
subjects and a range of COS subjects 20-30%
Other Learning Experiences
Moral and civic education, community service, aesthetic and physical activities, career-related experiences
(Note: Schools may adjust the % of time allocation flexibly within each of the core subjects, elective subjects and other learning experiences to cater for the needs of their students and their own school contexts.)
(A) Continuity of Curriculum Reform in Basic Education (P1 – S3) with NSS
3.2 There is strong support for building on basic education reforms and continuing these through senior secondary education.
3.3 The continuity in the curriculum between the Basic Education (P1-S3) and the NSS should be spelt out more clearly.
Figure 3.1: Continuity of Curriculum Reform across Basic Education and New Senior Secondary Education
The Way Forward
3.4 The NSS curriculum is an extension of the curriculum reform in basic education (see Figure 3.1). It promotes student learning to learn capabilities, a broad and
balanced curriculum in eight Key Learning Areas (KLAs), opportunities for cross-curricular learning, and it places an emphasis on positive values of national identity, commitment, responsibility, perseverance and respect for others in moral and civic education. Readers may refer to the Basic Education Curriculum Guide and the Key Learning Areas Curriculum Guide issued by CDC in 2002, and EMB website http://www.emb.gov.hk.
3.5 The development of each NSS subject has been based on a consideration of the prior knowledge and learning students are expected to have developed in basic education. This has been reflected in the Curriculum and Assessment Guides (C&A Guides) for the NSS curriculum ready for 2nd stage consultation. In brief, all the short-term measures for curriculum reform in basic education introduced since 2001 are intended to prepare students for changes in the NSS curriculum.
(B) Curriculum Framework and Choices in NSS
3.6 The general public and the education sector strongly support the NSS learning goals, which, if realised, would not only meet societal and economic goals, but also the personal needs of students to continue life-long learning.
3.7 There is strong support for the guiding principles for curriculum design for NSS education that help prepare students to learn how to learn and to become life-long learners for further studies and the work place.
3.8 Since the purpose of redesigning the academic structure is to make impact on student learning, there is widespread support for the proposal that the change in structure must take place at the same time as the proposed reform in curriculum and assessment.
3.9 There is almost consensus that the student programme, including core subjects, elective subjects and other learning experiences, is balanced and will help broaden the learning of students while developing the potential of individuals.
3.10 The fundamental concerns regarding the curriculum framework are related to the tension between breadth and depth, to competing views on what constitutes
“essential” learning, and to student choices. Some respondents query whether the programme is broad and diverse enough for all types of students.
Common suggestions made are:
to provide more closely guided choices, such as requiring combination of elective subjects from different KLAs;
to design basic and advanced components and allow more “subjects” to be taken so that students with different abilities would take different components;
to allow students to take more elective subjects; and
to provide different curricula within subjects for students with different abilities/backgrounds.
3.11 The moral development of students needs to be continuously strengthened, and positive values and attitudes need to be nurtured in Hong Kong students.
The Way Forward
3.12 The curriculum framework is designed to enable students to attain the following learning goals for whole-person development and stretch the potential of each student:
to be biliterate and trilingual with adequate proficiency;
to acquire a broad knowledge base, and be able to understand contemporary issues that may impact on their daily life at personal, community, national and global levels;
to be an informed and responsible citizen with a sense of global and national identity;
to respect pluralism of cultures and views, and be a critical, reflective and independent thinker;
to acquire IT and other skills as necessary for being a life-long learner;
to understand their own career/academic aspirations and develop positive attitudes towards work and learning; and
to lead a healthy life style with active participation in aesthetic and physical activities.
Principles of design
3.13 In order to better achieve the learning goals above and bring about the benefits of the “3+3+4” system, the principles of designing the student programme and subject curricula in the Main Document have been revised below and will be adopted in the more detailed drafts for the 2nd consultation exercise on curriculum and assessment:
(a) All NSS subjects are developed upon the prior knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, and learning experiences expected of students in basic education to ensure vertical curriculum continuity. Schools are expected to ensure that students are adequately prepared at the junior secondary level (S1-S3) for the NSS curriculum.
Balance between breadth and depth
(b) One aim of the NSS curriculum is to widen the knowledge base of every student while at the same time enabling learning in depth in some subjects to prepare for further study. We have broadened the scope of curricular objectives to include positive values and attitudes, and to promote whole-person development.
Balance between theoretical and applied learning
(c) All studies valuable for senior secondary education should include theoretical as well as applied learning (see Chapter 5). The balance between theoretical and applied learning will vary according to the nature of the subject and the kind of purposes for which it is being studied.
What is important is to ensure that the learning of all subjects is characterized by rigour and relevance and is suited to the needs of the students. Studies with stronger elements of applied learning and linked directly to employment areas will be accommodated in COS whereas core and elective subjects will be more comprehensive in theoretical learning supported by applied learning.
Balance between essential learning and a flexible and diversified curriculum
(d) While essential learning is provided in the core subjects of Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies, a wide spectrum of elective subjects and COS is provided to cater for divergence in student interests, needs and abilities. For most subjects, essential knowledge and concepts would be provided in the compulsory part, while the elective part would help apply essential knowledge and concepts and cater for the different needs of students.
Learning how to learn and inquiry-based learning
(e) The current focus in learning and teaching is on developing students’
overall capacities for self-directed, life-long learning by embedding independent learning and generic skills into all subjects. Consistent with basic education, communication, critical thinking and creativity remain as priority generic skills in NSS and they form part of all subject curricula.
Different subjects, being unique in one way or another, would provide suitable contexts for developing such capability together with learning objectives.
Progression of studies
(f) The 3-year curriculum should be so designed and time-tabled that it enables students to explore their interests as far as possible in SS1, and then to progress smoothly in their chosen studies (including COS) in SS2 and SS3. Each C&A Guide will provide suggestions as to how learning and teaching can best be carried out, such as sequencing of themes, induction of students to the subject, and flexible time-tabling. SBA and examinations at the end of SS3 will focus on assessing learning developed in SS2 and SS3.
Smoother articulation to multiple progression pathways
(g) One aim of the NSS education is to provide a curriculum that enables students to pursue academic and vocational/professional education and training with articulation to a wide range of post-secondary and university education or to enter the workplace.
(h) The aim is to avoid having too many subjects with the possibility for duplication, make connections across subjects including COS, and to introduce other cross-curricular elements, in order to ensure greater coherence in the curriculum as a whole.
In addition to adopting the above design principles for the further development of the NSS curriculum, the following will also be taken into account when preparing for the 2nd consultation.
Student programme – whole-person development and diversification
3.14 The student programme (para. 3.1 and Table 3.1) comprises a broad and balanced curriculum developed on the prior knowledge in the eight KLAs and learning experiences of students gained in basic education. Progression of studies in SS1, SS2 and SS3 is illustrated in Figure 3.2 overleaf:
Figure 3.2: Progression of Studies at Senior Secondary Levels
3.15 The curriculum and assessment framework embodied the following elements for further broadening and diversification of the student programme:
(a) Breadth in the student programme derives from the collective contribution of core and elective subjects, COS, and other learning experiences involving a range of choices among aesthetic activities, physical activities, career-related experiences, community service, and moral and civic education. This breadth in the curriculum nurtures students in the five essential Chinese virtues: “Moral, Intellect, Physique, Social, Aesthetics”
(德、智、體、群、美). Career-related experiences will equip students to cope with the demands of the workplace.
(b) The aim in SS1 is to enable students to explore their interests. This has meant introducing more subject choices than the number of examination subjects recommended (six to seven). Students can be exposed to a range
( ) optional
of subjects at SS1 before they make decisions for SS2 and SS3. Student performance in subjects or studies that are not reflected in examination subjects would be recorded in the internal assessment of schools and included in the Senior Secondary Student Learning Profile.
(c) The design of elective parts in subjects like Mathematics will provide students with more choices. This approach is better than having different labels of curricula of the same discipline implying different status in the eyes of students and stakeholders.
(d) The use of SRA (see Chapter 7) and the design of assessment questions will enable students of high abilities to be stretched while students of lower ability will be able to demonstrate what they could do.
(e) The subject of Liberal Studies enables students to make connections across knowledge areas and see things from different perspectives and to expand knowledge realm through three cross-curricular areas of studies and enquiry learning.
(f) The possibility of guided choices would hinge on university decisions on admission requirements.
Interface with post-secondary education
3.16 Chapter 8 provides more information on the interface of the NSS curriculum with post-secondary education. There should be ongoing dialogue between curriculum developers, schools and post-secondary institutions regarding the desirable combinations of subjects and studies to match with the new curriculum design in different post-secondary and university programmes in the new academic structure.
Meeting the aspirations of students
3.17 It is desirable that students are encouraged to choose elective subjects from NSS subjects or COS that match their interests and aspirations to study in post-secondary and university education, or to go to work. We should
recognise that it is a characteristic of young adults that some students of Senior Secondary age have clearer orientations than others. The elective subjects, COS and other learning experiences to be offered by schools should make accommodation for this and attempt not to close off progression pathways to university and the workplace.
Positive values and attitudes
3.18 Positive values and attitudes will be continuously strengthened in core and elective subjects, and other learning experiences as appropriate. The priority values, namely, national identity, responsibility, commitment, perseverance, and respect for others promoted in basic education will be further developed. The appraisal of students in key attributes will be discussed in the information guidelines for the Senior Secondary Student Learning Profile.
Students access to elective subjects
3.19 All subjects offered to students are considered worthwhile and valuable to develop the specific potential of students and to prepare them better to meet the needs of the society. Some subjects are not easily offered in school owing to a lack of facilities, resources and space. These include Design and Applied Technology, Music and Home Economics. It is our intention to take measures to support these important subjects. We will explore the use of the Diversity Learning Grant, and special measures such as “centralised” teaching and/or networked classes, to help schools provide for students who have talents in such areas.
(C) Liberal Studies
3.20 The general public and the education sector agree strongly with the rationale and curriculum aims of Liberal Studies.
3.21 There are diverse views on the implementation strategies and design of Liberal Studies as a core subject.
The Way Forward
3.22 Given its importance in the NSS curriculum, Liberal Studies will be discussed separately in Chapter 4.
(D) The Knowledge Base, Chinese Culture, Sciences and Other Proposed Elements of Learning
3.23 There is a strong support for providing students with a broad knowledge base in the NSS curriculum. It is also agreed that since Hong Kong is part of China, the learning of Chinese culture and promotion of civic and national citizenship need strengthening.
3.24 There are concerns that the cultural elements in the Chinese language curriculum appear to be weakened in the NSS curriculum.
3.25 The free choice of elective subjects among arts and science subjects may lead to students failing to have sufficient knowledge in physics, chemistry and biology in some university programmes.
3.26 There have been suggestions that we should strengthen certain themes in the NSS such as environmental education, legal education and consumer education.
The Way Forward
3.27 There will be an overall strengthening of Chinese elements across different components of the student programme. Due emphasis will be placed on Chinese
culture in the core subjects of Chinese Language (as a strand of learning and contexts of language usage and literary appreciation) and Liberal Studies.
Students especially interested in Chinese culture may choose elective subjects such as Chinese Literature and Chinese History, or subjects with Chinese elements like Visual Arts, Music, Physical Education or subjects in the Personal, Social and Humanities Education KLA such as Ethics and Religious Studies, Economics, Geography and History.
3.28 The design of the subject of Science will include two approaches to enable students to have a sufficient foundation in science without constraining their choices and to broaden their studies. The two approaches are:
(a) interdisciplinary modular approach – a balance of key ideas from Physics, Chemistry and Biology for students who do not take another science subject
(b) combined approach – comprising 3 parts with contents selected from Physics, Chemistry and Biology for students who take 2 science subjects.
This may be taken with three possible options:
- Physics and Chemistry as Science (with Biology as another elective subject)
- Biology and Physics as Science (with Chemistry as another elective subject)
- Biology and Chemistry as Science (with Physics as another elective subject)
In this approach, students can study Physics, Chemistry and Biology in a balanced way at SS1, so that they can make their choice(s) later according to their interests and needs.
(E) Language Standards, Putonghua and Other Languages
3.29 There is support for the biliterate and trilingual language policy.
3.30 There is concern that the language standards of Hong Kong students would be lowered as the percentage of time allocated to Chinese Language and English Language seems to be less than before. There is also concern that Putonghua (PTH) is no longer an examination subject.
3.31 As Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city, more encouragement should be given to the study of languages other than Chinese and English. The needs of ethnic minorities in learning Chinese require attention to ensure that students can integrate more effectively into the Hong Kong community.
The Way Forward
3.32 The language standards will be maintained by continuous improvement of learning and teaching. The use of SRA and the way question papers are set will allow more able students to excel, while motivating less able students to show what they have learnt and to earn recognition for their learning.
3.33 It is our policy to enable every student, as a citizen in Hong Kong, to play a meaningful part in Hong Kong life through the study of English Language and Chinese Language as core subjects in schools. Students whose mother tongue is not Chinese are encouraged to take the NSS Chinese Language or some other overseas Chinese curriculum with examinations administered by HKEAA.
3.34 A PTH test pitched at standards appropriate to S3 will be introduced in 2007.
The test will be based on research evidence developed jointly by a local university and the Ministry of Education in the Mainland. Elective modules are available in the subject of Chinese Language for students wishing to study
more advanced PTH. The current option of using PTH as the medium of instruction for Chinese Language, and the provision of a PTH version for the oral and listening component in the HKEAA public assessment will be maintained. Schools with the capacity to use PTH in the learning and teaching of the Chinese Language are encouraged to do so.
3.35 As Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city, the tradition of providing access to study other languages, such as French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Spanish and Urdu is to be upheld. These include the languages of some ethnic groups deemed necessary by the schools. This provision acknowledges that some students cannot learn Chinese effectively and it meets the specific language needs of all students in Hong Kong. HKEAA will explore, in consultation with stakeholders, the possibility of aligning and administering international examinations to meet this need. The proposed Diversity Learning Grant (see Chapter 11) will be used to support the provision of these languages, where necessary.
(F) Catering for Learner Differences and Students with Special Educational Needs
3.36 There is support for the proposal that under NSS, all students should study a broad and balanced curriculum.
3.37 There is concern that the NSS curricula will not be able to cater for a diverse range of student abilities in schools as students not expected to study sixth form in the past would now have to stay in school for one more year.
3.38 There is little information provided on how to cater for students with special educational needs in either ordinary or special schools. The issue of equal opportunity for all will have to be addressed.
The Way Forward
3.39 For most students, differences in aptitudes and interests can be catered for through the foundation and non-foundation part within compulsory parts of a subject (e.g. mathematics, sciences), the nature of elective parts (for most subjects), flexible learning and teaching strategies, the range of other learning experiences, assessment design and the use of SRA. The C&A Guide for each subject will provide further guidance on this issue. A good test of the success of the NSS curriculum will be its capacity to cater for the needs of all students, regardless of their interests, abilities and Socio-economic Status (SES).
3.40 The special educational needs of students including the gifted, and those with profound disabilities and students with other special educational needs, will be discussed separately in Chapter 6.
(G) Development of Career-oriented Studies
3.41 There is very strong support, especially from the parent sector, for the provision of COS to enable students with aptitudes and interests in more practical learning to succeed in their studies, develop self-confidence and orientate themselves towards relevant further study and/or a career.
3.42 The future development of the Career-oriented Curriculum (COC), and of the Yi Jin/Secondary Schools Collaboration Project, both of which are currently being piloted, should be described more fully and made an integral part of the overall senior secondary curriculum in schools.
The Way Forward
3.43 As the COS is a new and significant component in the curriculum, its relationship to other subjects and the principles underlying its design and development are described in Chapter 5.
(H) Time Allocation
3.44 It has been generally accepted that we should allocate 10% of lesson time to each elective subject, and also a minimum of 15% to other learning experiences.
3.45 Different views have been expressed on the proportion of time that should be allocated to the learning of core subjects and on how learning time for other learning experiences might be allocated more flexibly.
The Way Forward
3.46 Effective learning time is an important factor in determining student learning outcomes. The time allocation for Liberal Studies is changed to 10% instead of 12.5% as the minimum percentage of total learning time (see Chapter 4) and the time allocation for languages is in the range of 12.5-15%.
3.47 The overall suggested time allocation to different components of the student programme is revised as follows:
Table 3.2: Time Allocation
Suggested range (in %)
Minimum time allocation recommended
(in hours) Chinese Language 12.5 – 15% 338 English Language 12.5 – 15% 338
Mathematics 10 – 15% 270
Liberal Studies Min 10% 270
20 – 30%
Elective Subjects (Min10% each subject)
Experience 5% or more
Experience 5% or more
Other Learning Experiences
Moral and civic education,
community service and career-related experiences
5% or more 405
3.48 The student programme and the time allocation suggested for each subject are planned on a minimum of 2,700 hours of lesson time over three years (see Appendix 4 for international comparison of school days). Some schools have stated that it will be difficult to include some of the proposed other learning experiences into the conventional lesson-by-lesson timetable due to physical constraints such as lack of an appropriate site. Students’ learning opportunities would be satisfied so long as similar number of hours of engaged learning experiences with facilitation of teachers is provided (please refer to Table 3.2).
When students take Ethics and Religious Studies, Physical Education, subjects of Arts education as elective subjects and/or COS, the lesson time could be counted towards that for other learning experiences.
3.49 Some schools may wish to offer enhancement or remedial courses, or other languages to suit the different needs of students. These might be offered in addition to all the required learning opportunities in the student programme but they should not overload students.
3.50 The fundamental principle to uphold is that we must provide students with a balanced student programme.
(I) Names of Subjects
3.51 There is general consensus on the names of most of the NSS subjects.
3.52 Concerns have been expressed that with the revision of the curriculum framework, the names of some subjects such as Home Economics and Liberal Studies may not reflect the essence of these subjects.
The Way Forward
3.53 The names of subjects reflect the origins and contexts of where the subjects come from, and also the purposes and contents of the subject. A balanced consideration of the contexts and new objectives and contents will be made.
(J) Further Consultation and Guidance
3.54 There is agreement that some schools have made good progress in basic education, and it is generally agreed that the new curricula set out for NSS will dovetail with the reforms in basic education.
3.55 As the changes in the NSS curriculum are complex, there should be more guidance provided to schools.
The Way Forward
3.56 Readers are recommended to refer to the 2nd consultation exercise on curriculum and assessment for further information. The 2nd consultation exercise will be conducted in the summer of 2005.
3.57 A New Senior Secondary Curriculum Guide playing a similar role to the Basic Education Curriculum Guide (CDC, 2002) will be ready in mid-2006 to help schools implement the various facets of NSS. This will include sections on school development planning, the professional development of staff, curriculum planning, changing the paradigm of learning, teaching and assessment and on other learning experiences. The Guide will be supported by exemplary practices.
Chapter 4 Curriculum (II): Liberal Studies as a New Core Subject
The place and design of Liberal Studies in the new senior secondary curriculum has provoked intense public interest. There are intertwining tensions between competing views of knowledge and definition of Liberal Studies, breadth and depth, pedagogical approaches, the ecology of schools, unequal learning opportunities amongst students, examinations and school-based assessment. This chapter provides further direction for the development of Liberal Studies as a core subject for the 2nd consultation exercise on curriculum and assessment, based on the intention to balance the tensions to ensure smoother implementation of the subject to benefit all students.
4.1 Liberal Studies is a core subject in the NSS curriculum. It aims to broaden students’ knowledge base and enhance their social awareness through the study of a wide range of contemporary issues. It was proposed that the curriculum for Liberal Studies would take up 12.5% of the total lesson time of the overall curriculum.
4.2 Liberal Studies will enable students to make explicit connections across knowledge and concepts from different disciplines and enable them to examine issues from multiple perspectives. By adopting an issue-enquiry approach to learning and teaching, the subject will help students to become independent thinkers and life-long learners.
4.3 The curriculum comprises three Areas of Study that represent broad areas of concern about the human condition and the contemporary world, namely “Self and Personal Development”, “Society and Culture” and “Science, Technology and the Environment”. Compulsory units and elective units are proposed for each of the Areas of Study. It was proposed that students would have to study nine compulsory units and six elective units throughout the three years of study.
4.4 The curriculum also requires students to conduct an “Independent Enquiry Study” on an issue of their own choice, which will involve concepts, knowledge and perspectives learned during the course of study.
4.5 An initial proposal for public assessment was put forward for consultation.
This proposed a combination of written examination papers (70%) and a component for SBA (30%).
(A) The Position of Liberal Studies in the NSS Curriculum
4.6 There is a strong consensus on the rationale and curriculum aims of Liberal Studies, which include broadening students’ knowledge base, developing students’ multiple perspectives on contemporary issues and learning to learn skills, and helping students to become independent thinkers. Its position as a core subject in the curriculum is critical as a means to address the bias towards discipline-based subjects in the rest of the curriculum. There is particularly strong support from serving Liberal Studies (ASL) teachers who have witnessed the benefits to their students.
4.7 Most respondents have agreed that Liberal Studies should be a core subject, after a long period of deliberation and discussion with school heads, parents and universities during the consultation period.
4.8 Though there is general support for Liberal Studies as a core subject, it has been pointed out that other subjects can also serve the purpose of developing critical and independent thinking among students.
4.9 There are very diverse views amongst academics as to the different traditions and interpretation of Liberal Education and General Education.
The Way Forward
4.10 Liberal Studies will be a core subject and assessed in the same way as other subjects in the new NSS. The 2nd consultation exercise will focus on the detailed design of the subject based on feedback collected during the 1st consultation exercise.
4.11 Liberal Studies plays a unique role in the NSS curriculum by helping students to connect concepts and knowledge across different disciplines, to look at things from more than one single perspective, and to study issues not covered by any single disciplines, such as personal development and Chinese culture.
It is more than just about developing thinking skills and positive values and attitudes.
4.12 The nature of Liberal Studies is different from that of General Education or Liberal Education in universities. It is a curriculum organisation that suits the curriculum contexts of Hong Kong and achieves the learning goals identified for senior secondary education. It is not necessarily tied to a particular ideology such as “humanism” and “classicism”. It subscribes to a common view that all students could construct and expand knowledge through a variety of learning and teaching activities suitable for the age group engaged in senior secondary education.
(B) Balancing Breadth and Depth
4.13 Though there are different perceptions of what is meant by “breadth” in the NSS curriculum, it is generally agreed that the three Areas of Study, namely
“Self and Personal Development”, “Society and Culture”, “Science, Technology and the Environment” and the proposed units within them provide breadth of study relevant to the life of students. It is also generally agreed that such areas will give rise to cross-curricular thinking and knowledge construction.
4.14 As the subject is new and demanding to most teachers and students, there is some concern that nine core units and six elective units are too much for teachers and students to cope with.
The Way Forward
4.15 The breadth of the subject is maintained by a choice of units amongst the three areas of study. The number of core units in the curriculum design will be reduced from nine to six in order to allow sufficient time for students to develop a deep enough understanding of the issues, develop their thinking skills to deal with the complex issues, and to develop and reflect on values.
4.16 There will be no required electives, as the time devoted to the Independent Enquiry Study within Liberal Studies will cater adequately for the different interests of students.
4.17 A list of areas for Independent Enquiry Study will be produced in order to help teachers to guide students, and to make initial implementation of the subject more manageable.
(C) Curriculum Design, Framework and Time Allocation
4.18 Students who have studied Liberal Studies have stated that the way the curriculum is designed has successfully opened up their mind, given them confidence in communicating with others, and helped prepare them for further studies. Some parents have also seen their children benefit from Liberal Studies.
4.19 Building on the successful impact of the current Liberal Studies (ASL) on students, there has been very strong support for the Independent Enquiry Study as part of the Liberal Studies curriculum framework.