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Review of liberal studies is required

After nearly a decade, it is not unreasonable for such action to be taken with youngsters needing to be better equipped for working in an increasingly complex and globalised environment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 12:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 12:39am

Mixing the school curriculum and politics is hardly in the interest of education.

In a city where politics is getting into almost everything, the need to guard against such a trend is even more pertinent. The ongoing debate over the review of compulsory liberal studies in secondary schools has become so politically charged that it risks losing sight of the basics when considering whether the subject should be overhauled.

A compulsory subject in the university entrance examination since 2009, liberal studies aims to replace rote learning by broadening and strengthening pupils’ perspectives, social awareness, critical thinking and analytical skills.

It covers a wide range of topics, including personal development, technology, the environment, Hong Kong society, China’s reforms and globalisation. It was generally hailed as a bold reform, despite concerns over the lack of model teaching and assessment materials.

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But, in recent years, the subject has been considered too liberal by some pro-Beijing figures. They said the subject allowed teachers to make use of current affairs to promote anti-government sentiments, giving rise to the campaign against the national education curriculum in 2012 and the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.

There has been a suggestion that the subject should be replaced by Chinese history, presumably a way to help nurture a stronger sense of patriotism among pupils.

But the rival camp feared the review was a step to tame youngsters. They rejected accusations pupils had been radicalised, adding there was nothing wrong with them becoming more politically aware.

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Whether our youngsters have become more critical of the establishment than before is open to debate. In any case, there is no evidence yet to show that liberal studies is to blame. The subject, after all, has been in place for nearly a decade. A review of its implementation is not unjustified.

What matters is that the students can improve their learning and become better equipped for working in an increasingly complex and globalised environment. The review should be conducted professionally, free of political consideration and interference.