Liberal studies debate in Hong Kong: leave the politics out and focus on students
The debate over whether liberal studies should remain a compulsory subject for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam and if its grading system should be modified to a pass/fail mode has stirred up quite a controversy. However, politics should be left out of it, to make the discussion more education-focused (“Liberal studies debate traps Hong Kong students in political combat zone”, May 23).
Policy-wise, the purpose of introducing liberal studies was to provide students with broad-based learning and multiple pathways upon graduation. Liberal studies is an anchor subject that provides a platform for students to draw on their subject knowledge of electives to solve problems arising from authentic societal scenarios critically and logically.
Pedagogy wise, liberal studies targets reasoning skills, allowing students to see things from multiple perspectives instead of relying on impulse or irrationality.
Assessment-wise, the current grading system of 1 to 5** ensures that students of varying capacity can be differentiated fairly and effectively. The prevailing public impression that the liberal studies marking scheme is unclear is misguided, since clear descriptors are in place in the criterion-referencing assessment. The exam authority also holds standardisation meetings for markers to ensure the reliability and validity of grading, and there are stringent quality-control procedures to guarantee each candidate is assessed fairly.
The retention or abolition of liberal studies, together with any adjustments to the syllabus, assessment and pedagogy, should be considered carefully by all the stakeholders involved, with the pros and cons meticulously debated upon, for a decision that is ultimately beneficial to students.
Jason Tang, Tin Shui Wai