More than 60 per cent of parents support the inclusion of liberal studies as a core element in a proposed new secondary school curriculum, according to a three-month consultation exercise that ended last week. 'The overall direction of the public consultation showed overwhelming support for the education reforms,' Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said. 'Headmasters also like the idea of liberal studies but want more details. Some of them wonder why liberal studies should not be an elective instead of being compulsory,' he told the conference. The results of the consultation were still being consolidated, he said, and further discussions would be pursued with key stakeholders. Another consultation relating to the use of English as the medium of instruction would also be launched shortly. Mr Li's reformist views call for three years each for junior and senior secondary schooling followed by four years of tertiary education at the undergraduate level. At the moment, the corresponding years of study are three, two, three. His proposal to overhaul the curriculum would devote 45 per cent or 55 per cent of class time to the core subjects of Chinese, English, maths and liberal studies. About 30 per cent of the time would go towards two or three career-oriented electives such as information technology, engineering, food production and performing arts. The remaining time would be reserved for 'other learning experiences' relating to moral and civic activities. The reforms are expected to cost about $6.7 billion in non-recurring expenditure, while the additional year of university will increase annual expenses by an estimated $1.8 billion. Mr Li is also advocating stronger educational exchanges between Hong Kong and mainland schools.