The education minister yesterday launched the academic year with a visit to a school in Kwun Tong, meeting Form One students who will be the first to enter the new senior secondary system in three years' time. Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung praised the principal and teachers of the Hong Kong Taoist Association Ching Chung Secondary School for their readiness to meet the changes, saying most schools were prepared for the challenges ahead. 'I am delighted to learn that most schools stand ready for the challenges brought by the new academic structure and are in full gear for the relevant preparation work,' Professor Li said. The more than 80,000 students who started Form One yesterday will be the first to go through the new system in 2009, which involves three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary and, for those who win places, four years of university. The principal of the Kwun Tong school, Benjamin Ng Yau-keung, said preparation included professional development and new teaching arrangements. Liberal studies, which will be one of four compulsory subjects in the new senior curriculum, was introduced last year from Form One. Form One student Kong Man-to, 12, was worried about the new academic structure, saying: 'I'm not sure if I'm ready.' Yip Hoi-hang, 11, said unfamiliarity with liberal studies was a source of concern. But, Chan Yuen-yi, was more upbeat. 'I'm very happy and excited. I feel sorry for older students because they had to go through many exams,' the 12-year-old said. Hung Tak-ming, who starts teaching liberal studies this year, said he remained apprehensive about the new subject despite support from the Education and Manpower Bureau and the school. 'I'll try my best but I cannot say for sure that I'm employing the most appropriate teaching methods until results of the first public exams come out in 2012,' he said. Education Policy Concern Group chairman Mervyn Cheung Man-ping said many schools were not ready for the new academic structure. 'Many principals and teachers are feeling the way as they go along at a time when the content of the curriculum is yet to be confirmed,' he said.