The human genome and its implications will be included in the formal school curriculum for the first time next year. The topic would be part of a revised programme for Form Six biology students, senior curriculum development officer Chan Pui-pin said. Mr Chan, from the science section of the Department of Education, said the move reflected a desire to update teaching for the 21st century. 'We think this is of relevance to our health and to human beings in general,' he said. Students would also cover some of the ethical implications of mapping the human genome, such as the potential for genetic discrimination, he said. The genome refers to the complete human genetic make-up, 98 per cent of which has been sequenced by two groups of international scientists. The details were published in the journals Science and Nature this month. Mr Chan said the genome was already being discussed in some classes but the subject was not on the formal curriculum. Biotechnology was also likely to be a focus of a new integrated science and technology subject to be implemented in 2003. The non-compulsory subject, for students beyond Form Three who are not specialising in science, would aim to improve pupils' scientific literacy, Mr Chan said. He said students needed to be equipped to distinguish between scientific fact and myth, particularly on health advances. The Dean of Science at the University of Hong Kong, Associate Professor Frederick Leung Chi-ching, welcomed the inclusion of the human genome in the school curriculum as a step in the right direction but said further educational reform was needed. He advocated the teaching of science as a separate subject throughout schools for all students, which would lead to a knowledge-based economy and prevent the development of 'mental blocks' against the subject. 'Our students are not really up to the threshold I call scientifically literate. If you don't even know what DNA is, what good does it do if it [the genome] is all on the Internet?,' Dr Leung said. 'I'm fully convinced the only way we can really catch up [with world leaders in the biotechnology industry] is through education. The Government needs to understand that we are way behind in terms of developing this biotechnology industry.' Dr Leung recently returned from a conference in Lyon, France, where details of the human genome's make-up were disclosed to international scientists before being published in the journals.