Unorthodox NSS subject choices could limit learning for Hong Kong students

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 8:12pm

The survey finding released by the Academy of Sciences (“Too few Hong Kong secondary pupils taking advanced maths and science courses, researchers say”, December 31) on few takers for advanced mathematics and science courses hardly surprises.

Under the new senior secondary (NSS)curriculum, students receive broad-based learning so that they can gain exposure to a wide variety of subjects.

The Education Bureau curriculum documents stipulate that multiple pathways are in place to ensure every graduate can thrive regardless of their subject choice.

It is against this backdrop that students enjoy high flexibility when choosing electives. Unlike their counterparts strictly streamed into science, arts or business classes in the pre-NSS era, students nowadays can literally mix and match any subjects to their liking.

For example, the past five years have seen students unorthodoxly combining Chinese history with such science subjects as physics or chemistry as their options. While such combinations of subjects may expose students to both fields, the depth of learning taking place may be compromised.

This is because both arts and science subjects should be learnt as complete systems rather than separate entities, so it is nonsensical to study an arts subject alongside a science one. Students’ knowledge of either field will become limited in scope and stunted in depth.

Moreover, even science-savvy students prioritise meeting the minimum university entrance requirements to excelling in electives. Failure to meet the language requirements would cost them a university place, so they devote more of their energy and time to core subjects. As a result, their public exam performance in science subjects may take a hit.

On another note, schools need to maximise the number of students securing degree places, so they resort to mobilising resources to boost students’ abilities in core subjects.

To attract talented students into science programmes, universities may consider giving heavier weighting to science subjects during their admission exercises and offering scholarships to prospective students. These measures should give students the impetus to perform better in science subjects.

Science departments may also ponder easing the English language requirement by accepting IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores. That way, exemplary science students with poor English will have an alternative route to cross the language threshold.

Also noteworthy is that a considerable portion of the IELTS academic module materials are science-related, hence giving science students a higher chance to score Band 6 (equivalent to Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Level 3 in English).

Jason Tang, Tin Shui Wai