Carrie Lam Says Liberal Studies ‘Deviate’ and Orders Reform
Ip Kin-Yuen: Accusations are Unfounded
Fung Wai-Wah: Reform Proposal Must Be Withdrawn  

PTU News Reporter

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in the Policy Address that Liberal Studies has deviated from the subject’s objectives. Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung announced reform of Liberal Studies afterwards, which includes renaming, simplifying grading system to pass or fail, halving the curriculum and teaching hours, as well as eliminating Independent Enquiry Study (IES) amongst others. Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) Vice-President Ip Kin-Yuen said Lam’s accusations are unfounded and questioned the reform did not consider the suggestions provided by the Task Force on Review of School Curriculum (Task Force). Effectively, the reform was to ‘kill the subject’. PTU President Fung Wai-Wah strongly condemned the reform and demanded the proposal to be withdrawn.

After two years of evaluation, the Task Force submitted a report in September, in which suggestions for the arrangement of Liberal Studies have been made. Yet, in less than three months, the Education Bureau announced changes that nearly eliminates the subject altogether without any consultations. Ip Kin-Yuen described such a reform as ‘murder’ of the subject. Fung Wai-Wah said such practice is humiliating to the education profession rather than ‘professional leadership’ as the Chief Executive put it and should be strongly condemned.

Ten Years of Hard Work Vanished in Ten Minutes 

Liberal Studies teacher and PTU Vice-President Tin Fong-Chak said the Education Bureau destroyed the hard work of Liberal Studies teachers of over a decade in ten minutes. He pointed out that suggestions made by the Task Force were based on the existing grading system and nothing about ‘pass or fail’ was mentioned. He quoted PTU’s survey that showed more than sixty per cent of Liberal Studies teachers are against using only pass or fail to assess students’ performance. In the early planning phase of the new Senior Secondary Curriculum for Liberal Studies, the Education Bureau even acknowledged that such a system would hinder the subject in gaining recognition and that also extends to the international recognition of HKDSE in general. Such arrangement, according to the Bureau, would also be unfavourable to students who take the subject seriously. It is obvious that the change in grading system proposed by the Bureau now blatantly ignores the popular opinion in the industry and goes against the principals of the subject.

Tin continued to say that it was explicitly stated in the Curriculum and Assessment Guides that ‘IES is an integral part of student learning in Liberal Studies’. Without IES, students will lose the opportunity to learn about social issues in an autonomous study format. This change will seriously damage the structure of the subject and impact the international recognition of HKDSE, which he worries will hinder students in pursuing their studies abroad.

Current Affairs Should Not Be Discussed in Liberal Studies? Cheung Yui-Fai: Absurd

Kevin Yeung said Liberal Studies should not cover current affairs and immature issues. Veteran Liberal Studies teacher and PTU Education Research Department Director Cheung Yui-Fai said such saying is absurd. The Curriculum and Assessment Guides of Liberal Studies encourages teachers to include and discuss current affairs in class. In fact, Liberal Studies teachers are equipped with professional training and should engage students in comprehensive discussion of controversial current affairs. He criticised the Bureau for demanding teachers to avoid social issues for political reasons.

Carrie Lam Blasts Liberal Studies Lacks Framework  PTU: Misleading

Carrie Lam criticised Liberal Studies lacked a framework and defended that the reform is ‘led by professionals’. The PTU published a statement in response to Lam’s misleading claim shortly afterwards. The framework of Liberal Studies is clear. The curriculum and assessment guidelines are as long as 150 pages, entailing six units and twelve themes. Lam’s claim cannot be farther from the fact. In addition, killing the subject without informing frontline teachers is far from professional and unconvincing.