Few pass liberal studies mock test

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2011, 12:00am


Less than a year before students sit the new compulsory liberal studies examination for the first time, many are ill-prepared, a large-scale mock test has found.

The 2,633 students from about 100 secondary schools who took part in one of three rounds of mock examinations from November last year to April this year achieved an average pass rate of 42 per cent.

Results from the third round, when a tougher paper was used, were even poorer, at 28 per cent.

'The results are poor. It shows that many students have not achieved ... the knowledge and skills required from the subject,' said Wong Ka-leung, vice-president of the Hong Kong Liberal Studies Association, a teachers' group which conducted the mock exam.

Liberal studies became a compulsory subject for those studying for the Diploma of Secondary Education after a review of the education system. The first batch of pupils started studying the subject in 2009. Pass rates for liberal studies A-level examinations were about 80 per cent.

Wong said the first two rounds of mock papers were set according to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority's sample paper released in 2009, and the third one followed the new, more difficult set it released last year.

'We hope the authority will stick with the easier type in the real exam next year. Changing to a new type has made it difficult for teachers to adjust,' Wong said.

The association also urged the authority to set clearer grading standards and more concrete examples of accepted answers.

'We still lack consensus in grading standards,' said Wong. For example, about 40 teachers in a markers' meeting gave marks ranging from two to eight out of 10 to students' answers to question on whether losing weight would make young people more healthy. Previous mock exams also found deviations in marking.

Wong said the mock exam reflected that students' abilities in the subject were weak, and suggested the government consider whether it was appropriate for the subject to be a requirement for university entrance.

'Liberal studies is to train students' critical thinking skills, but some students don't even have the basic knowledge. For example, students were asked to discuss whether the Home Ownership Scheme should be resumed. For those who don't know what the scheme is, how can they discuss it?' he asked.

For a question asking students to discuss the feasibility of globalised management of nuclear power, stronger students cited real life examples, considered different perspectives and made comparisons. Weaker students usually made groundless arguments, discussing the merits of nuclear power instead of feasibility.

An earlier Professional Teachers' Union survey found that liberal studies teachers were facing work-related stress. Nearly half of 791 liberal studies teachers in a survey by the Institute of Education believed they were not capable of teaching the subject.