New senior secondary school curriculum leaves students wanting, study finds

Pupils' lack of confidence in their own abilities may be due to fewer years of high school

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 4:06am

Students studying the new senior secondary curriculum believe they are less capable than students who took the old curriculum when it comes to a range of skills that the reformed syllabus is aimed at boosting, a British Council report has found.

But researchers said it may be too early for students to be clear about what skills they had gained from the new curriculum.

Of those who had taken or will take the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE), just 32 per cent see themselves as having the ability to think analytically, having studied the curriculum; 46 per cent of those who studied the old curriculum believe they have such analytical skills.

Only 10 per cent of DSE students believe they can think creatively, compared to 12 per cent of old curriculum students.

The British Council's Education Intelligence unit conducted the research in June, surveying 2,788 students online. It found 69 per cent of respondents had taken or are planning to take the DSE, while 26 per cent of respondents had taken the old public exams - the Certificate of Education Examination and A-levels.

Five per cent of the respondents either did not take public exams in Hong Kong or studied alternative international curriculums.

Zainab Malik, research manager at the British Council unit, said that educators and parents had described DSE students as "better rounded, more analytical and more curious".

"Students have a hard time evaluating their own skills," Malik said. "They're getting [the skills] as we see from the evidence from [parents and educators]. But the students are still evaluating themselves according to what is going to get them into university. But this may start to change if we do this again in two or five years."

The first DSE exams took place in 2012 as part of the new "334" education reforms, which saw secondary school education cut from seven years to six and standard university degree courses lengthened from three years to four.

The Education Bureau said the curriculum emphasises holistic development and training students to be "critical, reflective and independent thinkers".

Dean of students at City University Dr Raymond Chan Kwok-hong said the abilities of both sets of students were similar, but that DSE students "may have slightly lower self-confidence".

"Perhaps they had one year less study at secondary schools, so they think they're less able. But in my class last year, students from different curriculums had similar abilities," said Chan.

A spokesman for the Education Bureau said it was inappropriate to offer any comments on the findings of the report due to a lack of information on the methodology of the study.