Let Hong Kong students drop the Liberal Studies IES for HKDSE, says education task force

The Independent Enquiry Study is often a major source of stress for students who find it time-consuming and confusing

Nicola Chan |

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The Task Force suggested secondary schools have more freedom in their studies.

Students should be allowed to opt out of the Liberal Studies Independent Enquiry Study (IES) and drop non-foundation topics in Compulsory Mathematics, an education task force has said.

The Task Force on Review of School Curriculum said this morning that such changes would give students more flexibility in their learning. However, it maintained that Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies should remain as core subjects on the curriculum.

A study by a local youth concern group this year found that the IES was a particular source of stress for students, who said they found it time-consuming and often confusing.

Liberal Studies IES projects are a major source of stress for HKDSE students

The Task Force suggested that students who choose to opt out of the Liberal Studies IES would not be able to attain higher than a Level 4 in the subject. The same rule would apply to students who opt out of the non-foundation topics in the maths curriculum.

“Right now, students are required to study both the foundation and non-foundation topics in the existing Mathematics curriculum, which take up two-thirds and one third of the curriculum respectively,” said Joe Ng, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education. Allowing students to drop the latter would enable them to choose topics based on their own interests and abilities, he added.

The Task Force also said most local students need a stronger foundation in Chinese, and that Chinese Literature should be taught in primary school to cultivate students’ interest. Measures should also be taken to support non-Chinese speaking students from other cultural backgrounds.

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The group also said the Education Bureau needs to give schools more help in teaching STEM subjects, by setting clear goals and providing guides or a learning framework.

To encourage universities to be less grade-oriented in their admission process, the Task Force also proposed implementing a new School Principal’s Nominations 2.0 Direct Admission Scheme.

The Scheme would allow local secondary school principals to each nominate two students who have made achievements in non-academic areas, such as sport or the arts, for some university programmes. Successful students would be given a firm offer by their university offer before the release of the HKDSE Examination results, the Task Force suggested.

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The Task Force made its recommendations after collecting feedback from key stakeholder groups and experts in the education field over an 18-month period.

Its suggestions are now open to public consultation. Comments can be sent to the Task Force Secretariat on or before September 16, 2019 by post, email, or fax. The Task Force will then submit its final recommendations to the government for consideration by the end of the year.