Liberal studies teachers struggle to conquer stress

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2011, 12:00am

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Two years into the new senior secondary curriculum, teachers of liberal studies are still facing much work-related stress, a survey found, suggesting the syllabus may be too ambitious.

The survey outcome runs counter to expectations that the teachers would have got used by now to teaching the compulsory subject, which seeks to help pupils understand social issues and develop critical thinking skills.

The average stress rating scored by 769 teachers of liberal studies was 7.9, a slight increase from the 7.7 in a similar survey conducted last year by the Professional Teachers' Union. The survey defines 10 as the maximum level of stress.

'This rate is alarmingly high. We had thought the situation would improve in the second year, with teachers gaining more experience and adapting better to the new curriculum,' said Ip Kin-yuen, education research director of the union.

More than 200,000 pupils have to study the subject under the new senior secondary structure, a jump from just several thousand two years ago when it was an elective subject taught only in some schools.

The survey, held in the past two months, found many teachers still lacked confidence in teaching the six topics that had to be covered in three years. The confidence rating was between five and six, with 10 being most confident. 'Some teachers who had attended training courses said the sessions did not help. Many didn't have the time to attend training,' said union president Fung Wai-wah.

The survey found teachers spent 7.4 hours a week on average to prepare materials for liberal studies lessons. About 90 per cent said it was longer than the time they spent on other subjects. They spent a further 3.7 hours a week handling students' individual projects.

'This curriculum is too ambitious,' Fung said. 'There is too much to cover and the standards set are too high. There are too many uncertainties, especially in how to assess the students' work.'

The union urged the government to allocate more resources and more permanent teachers, which would improve monitoring of the individual projects. On average, a teacher keeps track of the progress of 31 pupils.

The union's executive committee member and liberal studies teacher Wong Ting-hin said: 'Each student chooses their own project topic. That can range from issues covered in the six topics to anything of their own interest. It could be a topic unfamiliar to the teacher.'

Nearly half of the 791 liberal studies teachers in an earlier survey conducted by the Institute of Education believed they were not capable of teaching the subject.