More than 80 per cent of Hong Kong educators say curriculum should focus more on soft skills


Survey of more than 1,300 secondary school principals and teachers believe transferable skills should be a top priority

Joanne Ma |

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Educators in Hong Kong say soft skills will be the top priority for students in the future.

More than 80 per cent of Hong Kong educators believe the secondary curriculum should focus more on improving students’ “soft skills”, a survey said.

The survey was conducted last September among 183 principals and 1,158 teachers from 213 secondary schools. They were asked to comment on the effect, implementation and shortcomings of the current secondary curriculum policy.

It was conducted by Hong Kong Centre for International Student Assessment (HKCISA) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS), and the results were released on Thursday.

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The majority of the respondents said improving students’ transferable and transformative competencies should be a top priority of the curriculum. The said competencies were soft skills that had little to do with academic endeavours, but more with the understanding of oneself and interpersonal relationships.

Specifically, 89.5 per cent of the respondents said the curriculum should be able to improve students’ ability to act freely and to successfully take on responsibilities; 85.4 and 84 per cent thought the curriculum should focus more on reconciling tensions, and solving problems by making use of multiple literacies like media literacy.

All these “soft skills” are also in line with what international organisations like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and UNESCO advocate.

Strengthening values education and life education are key to help students develop more “soft skills”, according to more than 80 per cent of the surveyed educators.

Hong Kong teachers say students need to learn transferable skills in the secondary school curriculum.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

“I think successful life education should be able to encourage the students to have passion to search for knowledge and compassion to deal with people from different backgrounds,” said Esther Ho Sui-chu, director of HKCISA Centre.

“Compared to other students around the world, Hong Kong students do have a weaker self-concept and self-advocacy, because they are not as confident. The system has been judging them all the way [since they were kids],” Ho added.

To enhance support measures, 89.8 per cent of the surveyed educators believed there should be more manpower for professional support; and 89.4 per cent agreed that there should be a higher teacher-to-class ratio.

When asked about how schools should incorporate more values and life education sessions when the current class hours were already overwhelming, the convenor of the curriculum development group at HKAHSS principal Lee said, “The students have too many subjects and have to meet too many examination requirements. I’m not saying we should prolong their school hours. Instead we just want more space within the current schedule for them to do something life education-related like counselling activities.”

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The research team suggested there should be multiple entry and exit pathways in the current educational system so students with different abilities can have equal learning opportunities.

HKAHSS said that it would be ideal if there were more university places in Hong Kong. “Having more admission quotas does not mean we’re sacrificing the quality of the university students. Rather, it’s improving the overall quality of the population,” Lee said.

The research team also noted the study was not conducted with the intention to reflect how the ongoing movements had come into play in the educational sector.