Taking the government's line may not necessarily ensure good results in the new upper secondary liberal studies examination, an assessment official says.
'If you can explain your stance on a topic well, you will gain marks - whether the marker agrees with you or not,' said Christina Lee, general manager of assessment development at the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA).
Liberal studies is now a compulsory subject in the university entrance examination. And for the first time this year, students sitting for the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) examination will be tested on their knowledge of the world, critical thinking and reasoning through a set of questions on current affairs and values.
Students recently got the chance to see what the new examination would be like when they tried a set of practice papers.
That prompted concerns among teachers and students about what criteria graders would employ.
For instance, one question asked about balancing economic growth and environmental protection on the mainland, while another asked whether sending flowers on Valentine's Day was a symbol of sexual stereotyping.
A question about chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen's criticism of demonstrations aroused concerns about whether students should subscribe to the views of the political establishment to score well.
In January last year Tang said protests would exacerbate conflicts in society and result in situations like 'a fatal car crash'.
However, Lee, speaking on a radio show, said students' consistency of argument and clarity of thought mattered more, adding that officials had stressed that political ideologies would not be taken into account.
According to the suggested grading guidelines, students may either agree or disagree with Tang to gain marks.
Jacob Hui Shing-yan, a liberal studies teacher at Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School, said he would encourage students to answer according to their beliefs. 'If you say you agree with something just because the government says so, I don't think you will earn a high score,' he said.
More than 70,000 students will sit for the HKDSE liberal studies examination this year.
The HKEAA says each paper will be graded by at least eight people to ensure fairness.
Liberal studies takes up this many hours, or 10 per cent, of the total lesson time over three years of senior secondary curriculum