Students from Secondary Four to Secondary Six will take a new subject to broaden their general knowledge if a proposal unveiled yesterday gets the go-ahead. All senior secondary students would take liberal studies, covering a wide range of topics in arts, science and public affairs, to broaden their fields of learning, the Curriculum Development Council said. The proposal comes as part of a curriculum review of primary and secondary schools. Teachers and educators have been critical of students' lack of general knowledge on subjects ranging across history, science and current affairs. An Education Department study found most students spent less than two hours a week reading newspapers. Educators welcomed the idea, but urged officials to prevent schools from forcing students into repetitive drills. Council chairman Professor Wong Yuk-shan said a consultation exercise on curriculum reform for senior secondary education would begin next year, but the council had not yet worked out a timetable for introduction of the new subject. Catherine Chan Ka-ki, chief executive of the Curriculum Development Institute, said the new subject would focus on project-style learning. 'Some council members suggested that students should know more . . . in the wake of terrorist attacks on the United States,' she said. They hoped the new subject could improve students' knowledge of international affairs. Tsui Hon-kwong, a spokesman for the Professional Teachers' Union, welcomed the news, but added: 'Its success would depend very much on how the schools deal with this new subject. I'm afraid that it may turn into another exam-orientated subject which focuses on reciting model answers.' Professor Wong said there was another option to implement the new course, in which secondary students in science streams would study an integrated humanities subject and those in arts streams would study an integrated subject on science and technology. The curriculum reform assumes a system providing six years of secondary and four years of university education, which is what the Government favours. The duration of secondary education is currently five years, with another two years for pre-university studies, while undergraduate programmes last for three years. Professor Wong, who is vice-president of City University, said the council also preferred that the subject combinations available to senior secondary students in future should include English, Chinese, mathematics and liberal studies along with two other courses.