However, he says the consultation process shows some schools want to delay implementation by a year Most people support proposals to adopt the so-called 3-3-4 academic structure and make liberal studies a core subject in the senior secondary curriculum, but many schools want the changes to take place in 2009 instead of 2008, the education minister said yesterday. Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung also disclosed that he was exploring options to progressively implement small-class teaching. Presenting the preliminary findings of the consultation on reforming the academic structure and senior secondary curriculum, Professor Li said at a press briefing that most of the 2,800 submissions received by his bureau supported adopting a three-year senior secondary course and a four-year degree course. There was also majority support for the senior secondary curriculum to comprise four core subjects - English, Chinese, mathematics and liberal studies - two to three electives and other learning experiences, he said. Professor Li said most agreed that liberal studies should be compulsory and students should be assessed through both a public examination and internal school assessment. To address anxieties about the new subject, there were suggestions that during the first two or three years, students should only be graded on a three-point scale - pass, fail or credit - instead of the usual five-point, A-to-E scale, he said. Professor Li also said he would try to seek extra resources to hire temporary replacements to allow teachers to receive full-time training on how to teach liberal studies. To enable the new subject to be taught in smaller classes, the bureau was also considering allowing schools to hire more teachers for new senior secondary classes. Professor Li said there was majority support for broadening the curriculum to include more vocational subjects. A committee comprising school principals, university staff and representatives from the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority had been set up to work out the details. A $300 million fund would be set up to encourage schools to launch these courses and to co-operate with other schools to offer courses that had low enrolment, he said. Of the 380 schools that responded to a survey on the reforms, about 50 per cent said they could be implemented, as proposed, in 2008. Another 30 per cent believed it would be better to do so a year later, and Professor Li said implementation might be postponed to 2009. The minister said the government would make a final decision on the timetable by mid-year and a second round of consultation would then be launched. On small-class teaching, Professor Li reiterated that the government lacked resources to implement it across the board and he did not think it should be used to save under-enrolled schools. He asked the public to consider whether small classes could be progressively achieved first at popular schools with big classes by allowing them to merge with under-enrolled ones.