Liberal Studies Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6)

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Liberal Studies

Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6)

Jointly prepared by the Curriculum Development Council and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority

Recommended for use in schools by the Education Bureau


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Preamble ~i~

Acronym ~iii~

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

1.1 Background 1

1.2 Rationale 2

1.3 Nature of the Subject 4

1.4 Curriculum Aims 5

1.5 Broad Learning Outcomes 5

1.6 Interface with Basic Education and Post-secondary Pathways 6

Chapter 2 Curriculum Framework 9

2.1 Design Principles 9

2.2 The Overall Structure 10

2.3 Linkages among the Areas of Study 11

2.4 Basic Design of Modules 13

2.5 Area of Study: Self and Personal Development 16 2.5.1 Module 1: Personal Development and Interpersonal



2.6 Area of Study: Society and Culture 23

2.6.1 Module 2: Hong Kong Today 25

2.6.2 Module 3: Modern China 33

2.6.3 Module 4: Globalization 39

2.7 Area of Study: Science, Technology and the Environment 42

2.7.1 Module 5: Public Health 44

2.7.2 Module 6: Energy Technology and the Environment 49

2.8 Independent Enquiry Study (IES) 55

2.8.1 Objectives of IES 55

2.8.2 Nature of IES 55

2.8.3 The Titles for Students‘ IES 57


2.9 Time Allocation 61

Chapter 3 Curriculum Planning 63

3.1 Guiding Principles 63

3.2 Progression 64

3.3 Curriculum Planning Strategies 65

3.3.1 Interpreting the curriculum 65

3.3.2 The interface between the junior secondary and senior secondary curricula

66 3.3.3 Catering for student diversity 68 3.3.4 Encouraging self-directed learning 70 3.3.5 Making use of ad hoc issues and life events and

designing cross-module topics of study

71 3.3.6 Linkages to other learning experiences and

life-wide learning opportunities

71 3.3.7 Cross-curricular collaboration 72 3.3.8 A whole-school approach to curriculum planning in

Liberal Studies

74 3.3.9 Integrating learning with assessment 74

3.4 Curriculum Management 75

3.4.1 Understanding the curriculum, student needs and the school context


3.4.2 Organisation and structure 77

3.4.3 Planning the curriculum 77

3.4.4 Building capacity 78

3.4.5 Developing learning and teaching resources 79

3.4.6 Managing change 80

Chapter 4 Learning and Teaching 81

4.1 Knowledge and Learning 81

4.1.1 Views of knowledge 81

4.1.2 Constructing knowledge through issue-enquiry 81

4.2 Guiding Principles 85

4.3 Approaches and Strategies 86

4.3.1 Issue-enquiry and multiple perspectives 87 4.3.2 Systematic examination of an issue 89


4.3.3 Choosing appropriate strategies: fitness for purpose 91

4.3.4 Reading to learn 98

4.3.5 Learning outside the classroom 99 4.3.6 Catering for learner diversity 99

4.4 Interaction 103

4.4.1 The roles and interactions of students and teachers 103

4.4.2 Teachers‘ debriefings 105

4.5 Learning Communities 106

4.5.1 Co-construction of knowledge in a learning community

107 4.5.2 Developing each student‘s potential in a learning


107 4.5.3 Building a learning community in Independent

Enquiry Study grouping

107 4.5.4 Information and communication technology

and learning communities

107 4.6 Learning and Teaching for Independent Enquiry Study 108 4.6.1 Building on prior experiences 108 4.6.2 Deciding on the title and the scope 109 4.6.3 Developing project skills in the context of learning the


113 4.6.4 Choice of methods and expected level of



4.6.5 Analysing the data 115

4.6.6 Variety of modes of presentation 116 4.6.7 Fostering learner independence 116

Chapter 5 Assessment 121

5.1 The Roles of Assessment 121

5.2 Formative and Summative Assessment 122

5.3 Assessment Objectives 123

5.4 Internal Assessment 125

5.4.1 Guiding principles 125

5.4.2 Internal assessment practices 126


5.5.3 Public examinations 130

5.5.4 School-based assessment 132

5.5.5 Standards and reporting of results 134

Chapter 6 Learning & Teaching Resources 137

6.1 Purpose and Function of Learning and Teaching Resources 137

6.2 Guiding Principles 138

6.3 Commonly Used Resources for Liberal Studies 139 6.3.1 Learning and teaching resources provided by EDB 139

6.3.2 Textual resources 140

6.3.3 The Internet and technology 140

6.3.4 Mass media 141

6.3.5 Other non-textual resources 141

6.3.6 Community resources 142

6.4 Flexible Use of Learning and Teaching Resources 142

6.4.1 Fitness for purpose 143

6.4.2 Catering for learners‘ diversity 143 6.4.3 Language issues in learning and teaching resources 143

6.5 Resource Management 144

Appendices 145

1 Suggested Themes of Enquiry for Independent Enquiry Study 145 2 A Sample Design for Teaching a Topic in Integrated


152 3 Preparing for and Facilitating Student Group Learning 153 4 Supporting the Learning of Students from Lower Socio-

economic Status Families

155 5 Examples of Schemes of Work on Cross-modular Topics 157 6 The Role of a School Principal in the Introduction of a New


164 7 Experience Sharing of a Liberal Studies Panel Chairperson 165 8 A Role-play Activity in an Advanced Supplementary Level

Liberal Studies Lesson

167 9 A Group Discussion Activity in Integrated Humanities



10 A Concept Map Drawn by a Student 171


12 Quality Feedback by Teachers 173 13 Quality Debriefing to Guide Issue-enquiry 174 14 Supporting Student Learning through Personal Digital


175 15 A Classroom-based Learning Community Approach 176

16 An Extended Learning Community 178

Glossary 181

References 185

Membership of the CDC-HKEAA Committee on Liberal Studies


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The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB, now renamed Education Bureau (EDB)) stated in its report1 in 2005 that the implementation of a three-year senior secondary academic structure would commence at Secondary 4 in September 2009. The senior secondary academic structure is supported by a flexible, coherent and diversified senior secondary curriculum aimed at catering for students' varied interests, needs and abilities. This Curriculum and Assessment (C&A) Guide is one of the series of documents prepared for the senior secondary curriculum. It is based on the goals of senior secondary education and on other official documents related to the curriculum and assessment reform since 2000, including the Basic Education Curriculum Guide (2002) and the Senior Secondary Curriculum Guide (2009). To gain a full understanding of the connection between education at the senior secondary level and other key stages, and how effective learning, teaching and assessment can be achieved, it is strongly recommended that reference should be made to all related documents.

This C&A Guide is designed to provide the rationale and aims of the subject curriculum, followed by chapters on the curriculum framework, curriculum planning, pedagogy, assessment and use of learning and teaching resources. One key concept underlying the senior secondary curriculum is that curriculum, pedagogy and assessment should be well aligned. While learning and teaching strategies form an integral part of the curriculum and are conducive to promoting learning to learn and whole person development, assessment should also be recognised not only as a means to gauge performance but also to improve learning. To understand the interplay between these three key components, all chapters in the C&A Guide should be read in a holistic manner.

The C&A Guide was jointly prepared by the Curriculum Development Council (CDC) and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) in 2007. The first updating was made in January 2014 to align with the short-term recommendations made on the senior secondary curriculum and assessment resulting from the New Academic Structure (NAS) review so that students and teachers could benefit at the earliest possible instance.

This updating is made to align with the medium-term recommendations of the NAS review made on curriculum and assessment. The CDC is an advisory body that gives recommendations to the HKSAR Government on all matters relating to curriculum


membership includes heads of schools, practising teachers, parents, employers, academics from tertiary institutions, professionals from related fields/bodies, representatives from the HKEAA and the Vocational Training Council (VTC), as well as officers from the EDB. The HKEAA is an independent statutory body responsible for the conduct of public assessment, including the assessment for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). Its governing council includes members drawn from the school sector, tertiary institutions and government bodies, as well as professionals and members of the business community.

The C&A Guide is recommended by the EDB for use in secondary schools. The subject curriculum forms the basis of the assessment designed and administered by the HKEAA. In this connection, the HKEAA will issue a handbook to provide information on the rules and regulations of the HKDSE examination as well as the structure and format of public assessment for each subject.

The CDC and HKEAA will keep the subject curriculum under constant review and evaluation in the light of classroom experiences, students‘ performance in the public assessment, and the changing needs of students and society. All comments and suggestions on this C&A Guide may be sent to:

Chief Curriculum Development Officer (Liberal Studies/ Cross-curricular Studies) Curriculum Development Institute

Education Bureau

Room 1321, Wu Chung House 213 Queen‘s Road East

Wanchai, Hong Kong Fax: 2573 5299




ApL Applied Learning

ASL Advanced Supplementary Level

C&A Curriculum and Assessment

CDC Curriculum Development Council

CMI Chinese-medium Instruction

EDB Education Bureau

EMB Education and Manpower Bureau

EMI English-medium Instruction

HKALE Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination FAO Food and Agriculture Organization

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 ICT Information and Communication Technology

IH Integrated Humanities

IES Independent Enquiry Study

IT Information Technology

KLA Key Learning Area

KM Knowledge Management

KS1/2/3/4 Key Stage 1/2/3/4

MOI Medium of Instruction

NGO Non-governmental Organisation


PDA Personal Digital Assistant

PDP Professional Development Programmes S1/2/3/4/5/6/7 Secondary 1/2/3/4/5/6/7

S&T Science and Technology

SBA School-based Assessment

SES Socio-economic Status

SLP Student Learning Profile

SRR Standards-referenced Reporting VTC Vocational Training Council

WHO World Health Organization

WTO World Trade Organization


Chapter 1 Introduction

This chapter provides the background, rationale and aims of Liberal Studies as a core subject in the three-year senior secondary curriculum, and highlights how it articulates with the junior secondary curriculum, post-secondary education, and future career pathways.

1.1 Background

The 334 Report (EMB, 2005) stipulated that Liberal Studies will be a core subject and assessed like other subjects in the three-year senior secondary curriculum. During the early stage of consultation, the place and design of Liberal Studies in the three-year senior secondary curriculum aroused great public interest. The process of developing the curriculum and assessment framework presented in this document has involved ongoing consultation with the various stakeholders, including education professionals and the general public. Their views have been taken into account and there is now consensus on the rationale and curriculum aims, and strong support for its being a core subject in the three-year senior secondary curriculum designed to address the bias towards single discipline subjects in the rest of the curriculum.

Liberal Studies aims to broaden students‘ knowledge base and enhance their social awareness through the study of a wide range of issues. The modules selected for the curriculum focus on themes of significance to students, society and the world, designed to enable students to make connections across different fields of knowledge and to broaden their horizons. The learning experiences provided will foster students‘ capacity for life-long learning, so that they can face the challenges of the future with confidence.

Since the 1970s, Hong Kong has been developing experience in the use of the issue-enquiry approach in curriculum development – an approach which is central to the design of Senior Secondary Liberal Studies. Besides the experience gained through Liberal Studies (Advanced Supplementary Level or ASL), which was implemented in 1992, schools have acquired many good practices in cross-curricular linkage in civic education and thinking skills programmes. The introduction of Integrated Humanities (IH) (S4-5) and Science and Technology (S&T) (S4-5)1 into the Hong Kong school curriculum in 2003 further enriched


the pool of resources and pedagogical knowledge relevant to the implementation of Liberal Studies in the three-year senior secondary curriculum.

The design of the curriculum and assessment framework for this subject is in line with contemporary views of knowledge and of how people learn. It has taken into account overseas experiences in cross-disciplinary studies, pertaining in particular to critical thinking, life education, values education and civic education, with due consideration given to their relevance in the Hong Kong context. The academic rigour of the subject has also been benchmarked against a number of comparable subjects in overseas secondary education curricula.

Senior Secondary Liberal Studies is a response to the community‘s expressed needs for a cross-curricular learning opportunity for all senior secondary students. It complements other senior secondary subjects in providing for academic excellence, broadening perspectives, and connecting learning more closely to real-life experience. The subject is rooted in the curriculum contexts of Hong Kong and aims to achieve the learning goals which have been identified for senior secondary education.

The subject takes up no less than 10% of the total lesson time in the overall three-year senior secondary curriculum. Schools have the flexibility to align the learning and teaching of Liberal Studies with other curricular planning in, for example, languages and moral and civic education.

1.2 Rationale

Liberal Studies provides opportunities for students to explore issues relevant to the human condition in a wide range of contexts. Liberal Studies enables students to understand the contemporary world and its pluralistic nature. It enables students to make connections among different disciplines, examine issues from a variety of perspectives, and construct personal knowledge of immediate relevance to themselves in today‘s world. It will help students develop independent learning capabilities and cross-curricular thinking. Liberal Studies contributes directly to the attainment of the goals of the senior secondary curriculum (Reforming the Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education - Actions for Investing in the Future, EMB, 2004, p.8). In particular, it will help each student to:


acquire a broad knowledge base, and be able to understand contemporary issues that may affect their daily life at personal, community, national and global levels;

be an informed and responsible citizen with a sense of global and national identity;

respect pluralism of cultures and views, and be a critical, reflective and independent thinker; and

acquire information technology (IT) and other skills necessary to life-long learning.

Together with the other core subjects and elective subjects, it helps to achieve a balance between breadth and depth in the school curriculum.

Figure 1.1 Li beral Studi es an d th e Thr ee-year S eni or S econdar y Curriculum

Liberal Studies is built on the foundation of the eight key learning areas (KLAs) in basic education and extends this into new areas of knowledge. Teachers should encourage their students to apply the knowledge and perspectives they have acquired from different subjects, to make connections across different disciplines of knowledge.

In cultivating independent thinking, positive values and attitudes, social awareness and adaptability to change, Liberal Studies provides a useful foundation for further studies,

Liberal Studies uses

knowledge and perspectives from other subjects to study contemporary issues so that students have the opportunity to:

Issues in Liberal Studies English X1


Chinese Language

Other Learning Experiences



connect knowledge and concepts across different disciplines

expand their perspectives beyond single disciplines

study contemporary events not covered in single disciplines



1.3 Nature of the Subject

Liberal Studies adopts a student-oriented approach. It aims to help students understand themselves, and their relations with others and the environment in which they live. The intention is not to turn students into specialists in any well-defined academic field, but to enable them to become informed, rational and responsible citizens of the local, national and global community.

The nature of Senior Secondary 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 any one particular ideology such as ―humanism‖ or

―classicism‖. Also, it subscribes to the common view that all students can construct and expand knowledge through a variety of learning and teaching activities suitable for the age group engaged in senior secondary education.

As the coverage of Liberal Studies includes contemporary issues, media resources are important sources of information apart from teachers‘ handouts and other learning and teaching materials. Students will learn to critically evaluate information, phenomena and ideas presented in the media, so that they can distinguish between fact and opinion and sense objectivity versus bias. Through discussion of issues in these resources, students will learn to base their conclusions on sound evidence and relevant sources of information, rather than on ignorance and prejudice.

An issue-enquiry approach is adopted for learning and teaching Liberal Studies. This encourages students to develop a capacity for independent learning in the pursuit of knowledge and openness to new possibilities. By studying the issues related to the themes chosen for the curriculum, students will learn to see the connection among different themes and disciplines, and appreciate the complexities and organisation of knowledge. Teachers are advised to take a developmental approach and employ various learning and teaching strategies to help students acquire a relatively comprehensive understanding of the issues, master related facts, analyse the core of the questions, give balanced considerations to different views and make reasoned judgments. The experience of ASL Liberal Studies indicates that roughly 50% - 60% of the enquiry process will be needed for acquiring content knowledge if students are to have a sufficient understanding of the background and nature of the issues explored.


The development of positive values and attitudes is an important goal of Liberal Studies.

The core values emphasised in moral and civic education (i.e. perseverance, respect for others, responsibility, national identity and commitment) throughout all key stages (KSs) are reinforced in Liberal Studies; and respect for the views of others and multiple perspectives are also developed so that students can make reasonable value judgments.

1.4 Curriculum Aims

The aims of Senior Secondary Liberal Studies are:

(a) to enhance students‘ understanding of themselves, their society, their nation, the human world and the physical environment;

(b) to enable students to develop multiple perspectives on perennial and contemporary issues in different contexts (e.g. cultural, social, economic, political and technological contexts);

(c) to help students become independent thinkers so that they can construct knowledge appropriate to changing personal and social circumstances;

(d) to develop in students a range of skills for life-long learning, including critical thinking skills, creativity, problem-solving skills, communication skills and information technology skills;

(e) to help students appreciate and respect diversity in cultures and views in a pluralistic society and handle conflicting values; and

(f) to help students develop positive values and attitude towards life, so that they can become informed and responsible citizens of society, the country and the world.

1.5 Broad Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

(a) develop the capacity to construct knowledge through enquiring into contemporary issues which affect themselves, their society, their nation, the human world and the physical environment, so that they

i. understand the personal development process and interpersonal relationships of adolescents with respect to the different challenges and opportunities they face;


iii. assess the impact of reform and opening-up on the development of modern China and Chinese culture;

iv. recognise that globalization has many dimensions and that people are affected in different ways and have different responses towards it;

v. realise how people understand issues on public health and make decisions based on related scientific knowledge and evidence;

vi. analyse how science and technology interact with the environment in relation to energy resources and sustainable development;

(b) understand the interconnectedness of personal, local, national and global issues, and the interdependence of the physical environment and society, and appraise issues of human concern accordingly;

(c) reflect on the development of their own multiple identities, value systems and worldviews with respect to personal experiences, social and cultural contexts and the impact of developments in science, technology and globalization;

(d) identify the values underlying different views and judgments on personal and social issues, and apply critical thinking skills, creativity and different perspectives in making decisions and judgments on issues and problems at both personal and social levels;

(e) present arguments clearly and demonstrate respect for evidence, open-mindedness and tolerance towards the views and values held by other people;

(f) develop skills related to enquiry learning, including self-management skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, information processing skills and skills in using information and communication technology (ICT);

(g) carry out self-directed learning which includes the processes of setting goals, making and implementing plans, solving problems, analysing data, drawing conclusions, reporting findings and conducting evaluations; and

(h) demonstrate an appreciation for the values of their own and other cultures, and for universal values, and be committed to becoming responsible and conscientious citizens.

1.6 Interface with Basic Education and Post-secondary Pathways

Liberal Studies builds on what students have learnt in basic education. Through exploring themes important to the modern world, it helps students to extend their breadth of knowledge, depth of understanding, independent thinking skills and ability to make connections.


Each module in the Liberal Studies curriculum will indicate the relevant prior learning experiences expected of students. The ―explanatory notes‖ in each module list the range of knowledge students may need in exploring the themes and issues. These notes also make suggestions as to how to suggest feasible perspectives for and directions of approach to the themes and issues to achieve the learning objectives.

The implementation of project learning as one of the four key strategies in the curriculum reform of basic education to help students to achieve the goal of ―learning to learn‖, has enabled them to develop many skills for conducting enquiries. Hong Kong students will have been exposed to cross-disciplinary enquiry learning during their study of General Studies at the primary level. The open and flexible curriculum framework adopted by the Hong Kong school curriculum in basic education has also made cross-disciplinary studies a part of students‘ learning experience, thus equipping them with generic skills and helping them to connect knowledge from different fields. Such developments have laid down a sound foundation for Senior Secondary Liberal Studies.

The study of Liberal Studies enables students to explore different pathways for further studies and future careers. Liberal Studies will help to foster intellectual ability in general, and develop multiple perspectives that will be of benefit to students in further studies at the tertiary level. The civic literacy, social awareness and ability to make informed decisions that students will have developed will also prepare them for effective learning and wise decision making in the ever-changing work environment.


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Chapter 2 Curriculum Framework

The curriculum framework for Liberal Studies embodies the key knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that students are to develop at senior secondary level. It forms the basis on which schools and teachers plan their school-based curriculum and design appropriate learning, teaching and assessment activities.

2.1 Design Principles

The design of the Liberal Studies curriculum is based on the following principles that are derived from those recommended in Chapter 3 of the 334 Report (EMB, 2005):

(a) The Liberal Studies curriculum is built on the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, and learning experiences expected of students in basic education. Students‘ learning in the eight KLAs and their exposure to the five Essential Learning Experiences before they enter senior secondary education provide them with the necessary knowledge base and capacity for their learning in Liberal Studies.

(b) The curriculum aims at integrating, applying, consolidating and broadening the foundational knowledge of every student through studying a range of contemporary issues in different contexts. The curriculum design enables students to go beyond facts and phenomena and engage in in-depth enquiry and reflection.

(c) The curriculum includes theoretical as well as applied learning. It exposes students to perspectives and concepts essential to the understanding of issues of human concern, while at the same time emphasising students‘ ability to transfer and apply these perspectives and concepts to the understanding of new issues.

(d) The curriculum framework allows for great flexibility in the choice of enquiry paths, the specific issues to be discussed and the use of curriculum resources to cater for student diversity and ensure relevance of the learning experience in the subject. The Independent Enquiry Study (IES) will also allow students to study topics which suit their interests and aspirations.

(e) The curriculum helps to develop independent and life-long learning skills in students, through adopting an issue-enquiry approach and providing self-directed learning experience.

(f) The curriculum allows flexible organisation and progression to cater for the different


(g) The knowledge, skills, values and attitudes developed in Liberal Studies help to prepare students for further education, training in different pathways and the workplace.

(h) In the three-year senior secondary curriculum, this LS curriculum provides a nexus of connections between other core subjects, elective subjects, Applied Learning (ApL), and other learning experiences (OLE).

2.2 The Overall Structure

The curriculum comprises three Areas of Study, namely ―Self and Personal Development‖,

―Society and Culture‖ and ―Science, Technology and the Environment‖, all of which represent broad areas of concern about the human condition and the contemporary world.

They serve as platforms for the exploration of related issues, so that students can develop a more coherent understanding of the world and come to appreciate the connections among concepts.

The Area of Study on ―Self and Personal Development‖ focuses on issues that have relevance to students at the personal level. It aims at helping students to develop an understanding of themselves and a positive outlook on life. ―Society and Culture‖ deals with the human condition in social and cultural contexts, with students exploring the social and cultural development of the local community, the nation and the world. Finally,

―Science, Technology and the Environment‖ examines the development of society in relation to the physical world and advances in technology. It cultivates an awareness of how science, technology and human activities affect the environment.

Figure 2.1 shows the curriculum framework for Liberal Studies.


Areas of Study Independent Enquiry Study (IES) Self & Personal Development

Module 1: Personal Development &

Interpersonal Relationships

Students are required to conduct an IES making use of the knowledge and

perspectives gained from the three Areas of Study and extending them to new issues or contexts. To help students develop their IES titles, the following themes are







Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Society & Culture

Module 2: Hong Kong Today

Module 3: Modern China

Module 4: Globalization

Science, Technology & the Environment

Module 5: Public Health

Module 6: Energy Technology & the Environment

Figure 2.1 Cur ricu l um Fram ework for Liberal Studi es

2.3 Linkages among the Areas of Study

As mentioned before, the three Areas of Study are not independent fields of knowledge or self-contained disciplines. They have inter-connections among them as shown in Figure 2.2.

Students are encouraged to apply the understandings and perspectives developed in one area to the study of the others whenever appropriate.


Self & Person al Develop men t   Soci ety & Cultu re

Personal development involves a process of socialisation. An individual‘s self-understanding and identity cannot be developed in isolation from the social, cultural and historical context. The profile of a society reflects the way of life of its members from different sectors; and its future is determined by the members‘ preferences on different issues. As interpersonal and inter-regional interactions become more frequent and networking more common, the choices made by individuals are making greater impact on communities, local and foreign, even on the global society.

Self & Personal Devel op ment   Science, Technology & the Environment Knowledge in science and technology helps individuals to understand many problems that they encounter, so that they can make informed decisions and appreciate their responsibilities to society, to the world and to the environment. On the one hand, the development of science and technology facilitates human exploration of the material world, and improves our lives. On the other, it affects our way of life, our mode of communication and even our ways of thinking. To make better use of science and technology in our lives has become a critical modern concern.

Society & Culture  Science, Technology & the Environment

The development of science and technology has helped to hasten social development, reduced the distance between regions, and brought a new impulse to cultural encounters and growth. For today‘s society, sustainable development requires a simultaneous consideration of factors related to science, technology and the environment. Given that social problems have become increasingly complex, the progress of science and technology needs to catch up with the speed of change in society – but any new technology will also bring new challenges and problems to society and the environment.

Figure 2.2 Linkages am ong th e Th ree A r eas of Study

The IES further integrates knowledge acquired from the three Areas of Study, and enhances the ability to synthesise knowledge in general through enquiry into issues of interest to individual students. It encourages students to appreciate the complexities of the modern world, develop critical thinking skills and make informed decisions. The subject does not aim to provide a given set of knowledge, and teachers are not encouraged to use an indoctrinating approach to promote a particular set of beliefs.


In summary, the curriculum framework for Liberal Studies is designed to ensure that senior secondary students experience a broad and holistic education. The three Areas of Study will broaden students‘ knowledge base, enhance their social awareness and help to develop a deeper multi-faceted understanding of self, society and the nation, and the natural and human world. Enquiry into contemporary issues within each area and the IES will help students to make meaningful connections across different disciplines, develop an understanding of a range of viewpoints, and construct their own knowledge. The learning experience provided in Liberal Studies will help students to become informed, responsible citizens and independent thinkers.

2.4 Basic Design of Modules

Each module is organised around a central concept relevant to the Area of Study, with key themes relevant to students‘ lives identified. These themes embody issues which are important to the students and society, and are appropriate for the stage of development of senior secondary students. These issues are perennial in the sense that they involve different values (e.g. economic development and environmental conservation; individual choice and collective interest).

The ―questions for enquiry‖ suggested under each theme show possible pathways for exploring into these contemporary and perennial issues. These guiding questions also indicate the expected breadth and depth of the enquiry. Teachers may enliven these broad perennial issues by making reference to specific current issues. For example, in discussing the issue on drugs patenting, teachers can help students to examine the perennial value conflicts underlying the issue, such as the tension between the pursuit of economic interests and legal considerations.

The ―explanatory notes‖ help teachers and students understand the related content and suggest possible perspectives and directions for exploring some of the issues. Depending on students‘ interests and ability, teachers may lead them to conduct enquiry through flexible use of the explanatory notes. More information for teachers and students will also be available in the Web-based Resource Platform for Liberal Studies (

During the initial implementation of Liberal Studies, these explanatory notes should be of help to teachers in understanding the scope of the curriculum, and will be updated to reflect


Area of Study: Self and Personal Development

Module 1: Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships

Themes Key Questions for Enquiry

1. Understanding oneself

What challenges and opportunities does a person have during adolescence?

2. Interpersonal relationships

What interpersonal factors facilitate adolescents to reflect upon and prepare for the transition to adulthood?

Area of Study: Society and Culture Module 2: Hong Kong Today

Themes Key Questions for Enquiry

1. Quality of life Which directions might be chosen in maintaining and improving Hong Kong residents‘ quality of life?

2. Rule of law and socio-political participation

How do Hong Kong residents participate in political and social affairs and come to grips with rights and responsibilities with respect to the rule of law?

3. Identity How are the identities of Hong Kong residents developed?

Module 3: Modern China

Themes Key Questions for Enquiry

1. China‘s reform and opening-up

What impact has reform and opening-up had on the overall development of the country and on people‘s life?

2. Chinese culture and modern life

With respect to the evolution of concepts and functions of the family, what kind of relationship between traditional culture and modern life has been manifested?

To what extent are traditional customs compatible with modern Chinese society?

Module 4: Globalization

Themes Key Questions for Enquiry

1. Impact of

globalization and related responses

Why do people from different parts of the world react differently to the opportunities and challenges brought by globalization?


Area of Study: Science, Technology and the Environment Module 5: Public Health

Themes Key Questions for Enquiry

1. Understanding of public health

How is people‘s understanding of disease and public health affected by different factors?

2. Science, technology and public health

To what extent does science and technology enhance the development of public health?

Module 6: Energy Technology and the Environment

Themes Key Questions for Enquiry

1. The influences of energy technology

How do energy technology and environmental problems relate to each other?

2. The environment and sustainable development

Why has sustainable development become an important contemporary issue? What is the relationship between its occurrence and the development of science and technology?

The following is a detailed elaboration of the curriculum.


2.5 Area of Study: Self and Personal Development

Area Brief

Within an individual‘s lifespan there are a number of developmental challenges that have to be undertaken, e.g. the development of identity and the taking on of an increasing number of roles throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Society also presents young people with many situational challenges and opportunities that may affect their self-perceptions and their relationships with others.

As they develop, students have to be aware of various physiological, emotional and social factors which are relevant to their personal growth. They need to recognise the significance of self-esteem and self-management skills, so that they can handle their fears in the personal development process. Students also have to learn to communicate effectively and develop social skills in different contexts, e.g. in the family and in school. Community involvement may provide opportunities for adolescents to handle adversity. All these experiences enable students to develop a positive outlook on life and empathy, and become prepared for the challenges of living in a rapidly changing society.

Area Objectives

Learning experiences in this Area of Study will enable students to:

(a) understand the factors which influence personal development, interpersonal relationships, values and beliefs;

(b) develop self-understanding through an objective assessment of adolescent development;

(c) be aware of the importance of life skills in handling challenges and opportunities during adolescence, and the complexities involved in their acquisition;

(d) appreciate the identity, roles and changes in different relationships;

(e) review their relationships in the family, peer groups and other social groups; and (f) appreciate the importance of community involvement.


2.5.1 Module 1: Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships Prologue

As adolescents develop and move into adulthood, they experience a number of physiological, social and psychological changes which may affect their self-esteem. At the same time, the ever-changing society presents them with many challenges and opportunities which are crucial to their personal growth. At this age, adolescents show a need to search for viable identities and roles, to become independent of their families and to broaden their circle of peers and foster their relationship with the community. Tensions and conflicts may well arise between adolescents and adults especially within the family. The onset of adolescence involves them in learning through experimentation in various situations and reflecting on their values. This may facilitate adolescents to achieve better personal development and enhance interpersonal relationships in preparation for the transition to adulthood.

In basic education, students have already acquired a basic understanding of personal growth and interpersonal relationships. This module focuses on significant issues which are open to conflicting views and values concerning personal development. Exploration of these issues enables students to achieve a deeper self-understanding and an awareness of the importance of self-management skills. Through exploring issues concerning interpersonal relationships in the context of the family, peers and society, students reflect on how they communicate and on the importance of establishing healthy relationships.

Relevant learning experiences in basic education

In basic education, students should have already taken part in the following learning experiences with respect to Module 1: Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships:

(A) Theme 1: Understanding oneself

Factors influencing personal development include: physiological, emotional and social changes at puberty and ways to cope with them; the uniqueness of individuals; similarities and differences between the two sexes; personal identity and self-esteem; self-image and self-awareness; personal strengths and weaknesses; a healthy lifestyle; self-management in daily life situations; money management; coping with stress and frustration; coping with


(B) Theme 2: Interpersonal relationships

Factors influencing attitudes towards sexuality, interpersonal relationships, values and beliefs; identity and social approval; roles, rights and responsibilities in the family and other social groups; peer groups and their influence; gender roles and relationships; relationships with the opposite sex; conformity and independence; simple conflict-resolution skills in daily life situations; enhancing interpersonal relationships and social skills; respect for others who hold different values and lifestyles; communicating and getting along with others in the community; the importance of participation in local affairs, etc.


Framework of the Module

Theme 1: Understanding oneself

Questions for enquiry Related values and

attitudes What challenges and opportunities does a person have

during adolescence?

What factors influence the self-esteem of adolescents?

How is it related to adolescents‘ behaviour and aspirations for the future?

Why are adolescents often given certain rights and responsibilities?

How do messages and values from the media influence adolescents?

What are the current salient trends that pose particular challenges and opportunities to adolescents in Hong Kong and how do they respond to these trends? Why is the acquisition of life skills important for adolescents?

adaptability to change, responsibility, self-esteem, self-reflection, rationality, self-discipline,


Explanatory notes

The explanatory notes below aim to help teachers and students understand related issues and suggest possible perspectives and directions in exploring these issues.

Relationship among self-esteem, adolescents‘ behaviour and aspirations for the future - an understanding of developmental challenges such as physiological changes,

emotional upheavals and social needs during adolescence and ways to cope with them

- factors which may affect self-esteem such as gender differences, physical appearance, family support, peer acceptance, socio-economic status (SES), cultural influences, etc

- comparison of self-esteem, behaviour and aspirations among adolescents with different socio-economic backgrounds, academic achievements, or parents of different child-rearing styles

- acceptance of one‘s own limitations and developing one‘s potential - importance of objective and accurate self-perception

Rights and responsibilities of adolescents

- adolescents‘ rights and responsibilities that are not shared by other age-groups in different contexts, e.g. universal education is only available to people below a


- unique expectations (e.g. adolescents‘ need to formulate their own set of values) and pressures on adolescents (e.g. conformity in dress and appearance, language and dating behaviour)

- discussion on why some people in Hong Kong want to give adolescents more rights and responsibilities, whereas others are less inclined to do so

The influences of the messages and values from the media on adolescents‘

development, e.g. gender stereotyping, civic awareness

Current trends related to Hong Kong adolescents

- understanding of trends that pose particular challenges and opportunities to adolescents in Hong Kong such as consumer behaviour, drug abuse, extensive extra-curricular activities, online activities, community involvement, etc., and analysis of the causes and patterns of these trends

- analysing the particularity of these trends which pose challenges and opportunities to adolescents in Hong Kong

- strategies commonly adopted by Hong Kong adolescents to cope with these trends - discussion on the importance of the acquisition of life skills for adolescents to

make good use of opportunities and meet challenges


Theme 2: Interpersonal relationships

Questions for enquiry Related values and

attitudes What interpersonal factors facilitate adolescents to reflect

upon and prepare for the transition to adulthood?

What kinds of relationships are commonly available to and most significant for Hong Kong adolescents? What are the unique and shared characteristics of these relationships?

How are adolescents‘ identities developed and roles embedded within different relationships?

Why are there often changes in adolescents‘ relationships with family members, teachers, peers and dating


How do adolescents in Hong Kong reflect upon their interpersonal conflicts and develop relationships with others?

How does communication technology influence adolescents‘ relationships with others?

cooperation, gender equity, empathy, integrity,


self-determination, respect for self, respect for others, social harmony, sense of responsibility,


Explanatory notes

The explanatory notes below aim to help teachers and students understand related issues and suggest possible perspectives and directions in exploring these issues.

Relationships available to Hong Kong adolescents

- different types of relationships for the typical Hong Kong adolescents, both formal (e.g. school clubs) and informal (e.g. peers)

- the unique and shared characteristics of these relationships, e.g.

gender-stereotyped beliefs and behaviour, and peer group pressure

Identity developed and roles embedded within different relationships

- factors affecting adolescents‘ identity development within different relationships, e.g. gender stereotypes, peer influence, parenting styles, and ethnicity

- adolescents‘ role expectations and behaviours within different relationships

Changes in adolescents‘ relationships with family members, teachers, peers and dating partners such as

- the quest for autonomy during adolescence, pressure towards conformity and the need for social acceptance


- analysing changing patterns of dating behaviour (e.g. displaying intimacy in public) and whether current trends are desirable and would affect the sustainability of an intimate relationship

Reflection on interpersonal conflicts

- possible causes and consequences of manifest interpersonal conflicts, (e.g.

parent-child conflict and sibling rivalry)

- strategies typically used by adolescents to deal with conflicts and the extent to which these strategies are effective

- reflection on various examples of conflicts and ways to minimise harm

- adopting positive attitudes towards conflicts and striking a balance between the need to avoid and resolve conflicts and the need to preserve personal integrity and beliefs

Developing relationships with others

- developing skills for starting and maintaining a relationship, e.g. being aware of one‘s own needs, privileges and responsibilities and those of others; and strategies for adolescents to survive in groups

- self-defence mechanisms against unpleasant situations such as ostracism - possible trade-offs between social harmony and individual freedom

- the importance of developing a sense of belonging, self-respect and respect for others in different relationships

The influences of communication technology on adolescents‘ ways of communication and interpersonal relationships, e.g.

- widening social network - cyber bullying


2.6 Area of Study: Society and Culture

Area Brief

Culture is a shared creation of members of a community with a shared lifestyle. It manifests itself in every part and every level of society. While society is made up of individuals, different environments give rise to diverse cultures in societies. Social progress and cultural development go hand-in-hand.

Post-reunification Hong Kong continues to develop as a cosmopolitan city based on the original foundation of economic development and an established way of life, while exploring its new role as a special administrative region of China. At the same time, through reform and opening-up, China‘s development has created unprecedented opportunities and challenges in the new millennium. Having joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), China can no longer cut itself off from the trends and influences of globalization. The surging Chinese economy and traditional Chinese culture are now interacting with the rest of the world in various ways. In living through such times of dynamic change, Hong Kong students need to develop both the capacity to reflect on their own culture and adopt a broad worldview that transcends spatial boundaries.

This Area of Study includes the following modules: Hong Kong Today, Modern China and Globalization. Because each of these modules has a different focus, their enquiry paths have different progression and depth. The entities with which Hong Kong students are personally involved form the focus of Hong Kong Today and Modern China. In contrast, globalization is a controversial concept which manifests itself in several different ways, so students need to explore the different meanings of the concept and be exposed to the controversies which surround it. They can investigate its impact on different regions and the diverse reactions from people living in different parts of the world.

Area Objectives

Learning experiences in this Area of Study will enable students to:

(a) understand important issues facing their own society, country and the world;

(b) assess qualities, phenomena, changes, trends and impacts in relation to various


(d) identify the interdependence among societies, countries and the world, and their mutual influences upon one another;

(e) appreciate the views and values of people from different social and cultural backgrounds; and

(f) reflect on and develop their multiple identities, responsibilities and commitments as citizens in their community, country and the world.


2.6.1 Module 2: Hong Kong Today Prologue

Hong Kong is a Chinese society with centuries of cultural heritage. Economically, it is already an international financial and commercial centre, and for years it has been a major world metropolis. Before 1997, it underwent the process of modernisation under British rule, and the meeting of East and West has produced a unique culture and ethos. After reunification with the motherland under ―one country, two systems‖, a new set of opportunities and challenges has affected public life and is shaping the development of Hong Kong.

In basic education, students have already acquired some understanding of these developments. In this module, they will explore further issues of concern, such as: the remarkable quality of life in Hong Kong, rights and responsibilities with respect to the rule of law, socio-political participation, and the identities of Hong Kong residents.

Relevant learning experiences in basic education

In basic education, students should have already taken part in the following learning experiences with respect to Module 2: Hong Kong Today:

(A) Theme 1: Quality of life

The needs and problems of Hong Kong society; the historical and current development of the Hong Kong economy; the functions of the government and the services provided by it;

the physical and human characteristics of the environment of Hong Kong (e.g. relief, climate, population); the rights and responsibilities of consumers; current environmental issues in Hong Kong, etc.

(B) Theme 2: Rule of law and socio-political participation

Historical and current development of politics and society in Hong Kong; the relationship between the Central Authorities and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR); the importance of the Constitution of the People‘s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR of the People‘s Republic of China to Hong Kong residents; the sources of law in the HKSAR; the governance of the HKSAR; the functions of the


(C) Theme 3: Identity

Roles and identities of the individual as a member of a group; the identities of individuals as Hong Kong residents and Chinese citizens; awareness and concern for local, national and global communities; the emergence of a global identity in an interdependent world, etc.


Framework of the Module

Theme 1: Quality of life

Questions for enquiry Related values and

attitudes Which directions might be chosen in maintaining and

improving Hong Kong residents’ quality of life?

What are the different opinions of Hong Kong residents on the priorities which constitute the quality of life?

Which aspects of the quality of life are seen to be more important? Which are seen to be immediate needs? Who might make the decisions? Why?

How can individuals or organisations contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the quality of life? What are the obstacles to their efforts? Which groups of people are most affected if these obstacles are not removed?

respect for quality and excellence; sustainability;

rationality; sensitivity; care and concern

Explanatory notes

The explanatory notes below aim to help teachers and students understand related issues and suggest possible perspectives and directions in exploring these issues.

Possible perspectives from which to measure the quality of life according to objective criteria or subjective judgment might include:

- The economic perspective (e.g. unemployment rate, per capita gross domestic product, real wages, disparity between the rich and poor)

- The social perspective (e.g. the level of medical and health care, access to education and its level, equal opportunities)

- The cultural perspective (e.g. diversity, heritage)

- The political perspective (e.g. human rights and rule of law, freedom of the press, the government‘s performance)

- The environmental perspective (e.g. level of pollution, development of environmental protection and conservation)

People‘s opinions about the quality of life may vary according to short and long-term costs and benefits to individuals, social groups and government

Hurdles with respect to maintaining and improving the quality of life, e.g. mobilisation of resources, technological level, social cohesion, perceptions of social justice, regional and international factors


Valuation of the quality of life may vary according to:

- different configurations of people / social strata / interest groups

 majority vs. minority

 vocal vs. silent

 active vs. passive

 abundance vs. scarcity

- judgment of urgency: consideration of personal, group and public interests


Theme 2: Rule of law and socio-political participation

Questions for enquiry Related values and

attitudes How do Hong Kong residents participate in political and

social affairs and come to grips with rights and responsibilities with respect to the rule of law?

What factors determine the level and form of

socio-political participation by Hong Kong residents?

What is the significance of their participation? Why do they have different demands? What is the impact of their demands?

In what ways does the rule of law protect rights and promote the observance of responsibilities among Hong Kong residents?

How does the government respond to the demands of different social groups? What is the impact of the responses on the governance of Hong Kong, the safeguarding of the rule of law and the promotion of socio-political participation among Hong Kong residents?


respect for the rule of law;

participation; human rights and responsibilities;

democracy; justice

Explanatory notes

The explanatory notes below aim to help teachers and students understand related issues and suggest possible perspectives and directions in exploring these issues.

Participation in socio-political affairs

- factors affecting the level and form of socio-political participation, e.g.

 expected cost and probable outcome

 personal, e.g. identity, a sense of responsibility, altruism, self-actualisation

 social structure, e.g. social cohesion and sense of belonging, differences based on ethnicity, gender, social strata, and age

 political, e.g. the power to vote and the right to stand for election at different levels, the credibility of the government, political culture

 educational, e.g. educational level, curricula

 the media, e.g. timeliness, coverage and reliability of news and information, the degree of freedom of the press and information, the level of involvement and the stance of the media on different events

- degree of significance to individuals, social groups, the government and society as a whole



 how can a clash between an individual code or article of law and the rule of law be settled?

 who should bear the responsibility for paying respect to and safeguarding the rule of law?

- the significance and the implementation of the rule of law in different dimensions, e.g. equality before the law, judicial independence, fair and open trial and the right to appeal, legal protection of individual rights, legal restrictions on governmental power

- functions and limitations of the rule of law in protecting rights and promoting the observance of responsibilities, e.g. the protection of minority rights; the restraint on arbitrary power; the promotion of social justice; the maintenance of a free, open and stable society; dynamic balance among different interests

Government and the requests of different interest groups

- the demands from people, organisations and interest groups with different characteristics, backgrounds, ideals and endowments, e.g. political groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the disadvantaged, professional bodies, industry and business, the middle class, adolescents, people of different gender, ethnicity and religion

- evaluating different interests

- institutionalised and non-institutionalised responses, swiftness of responses, and their validity and effectiveness

- impact of related responses on governance, e.g. decisions on priorities in resource allocation; the relationship between the government and Hong Kong residents; the legitimacy of government; the effectiveness and efficiency of policy implementation

- impact of related responses on safeguarding the rule of law and the promotion of socio-political participation among Hong Kong residents, e.g.

 the level of understanding of, concern about, and support for the rule of law

 the opportunities, levels and modes of participation, and their related strategies

 changes in civic awareness and the local sense of belonging


Theme 3: Identity

Questions for enquiry Related values and

attitudes How are the identities of Hong Kong residents developed?

To what extent do Hong Kong residents regard themselves as local, national and global citizens? How are their identities shaped? In what ways have their different identities affected their daily lives?

What is the interrelationship of the multiple identities in the local, national and global context?

What is the significance of multiple identities to Hong Kong residents? Why?

sense of belonging;





Explanatory notes

The explanatory notes below aim to help teachers and students understand related issues and suggest possible perspectives and directions in exploring these issues.

Characteristics of Hong Kong residents‘ identity

- multiplicity of identities of Hong Kong residents (e.g. influenced by globalization and cultures, residents‘ mobility)

- different kinds of Hong Kong residents: permanent and non-permanent residents;

permanent residents who are Chinese citizens and permanent residents who are not of Chinese nationality, etc.

- interrelationships among Hong Kong residents‘ local sense of belonging and identity, national identity and identity as global citizens (e.g. Hong Kong residents‘

identity with respect to issues involving local, national and global interests; the responses of Hong Kong residents to local, national and global events that trigger empathy and mutual assistance)

Factors affecting the sense of belonging and identity may include historical developments; developments in political, economic, social and cultural life; agents of socialisation; traditional culture; popular culture; the input of the government and NGOs; education

Identity and the sense of belonging may be shown by:

- feelings and responses towards local (HKSAR flag and emblem) and national symbols (national flag, national emblem and national anthem), national historical events, culture and landscape

- feelings and responses to major local, national and global events - participation in and contribution to local, national and global affairs


Significance of multiple identities of Hong Kong residents may include - cultural reflection and innovation

- diversity and multiple voices in society

- increasing thresholds of freedom and adaptability




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