How students and teachers really feel about Liberal Studies

By Edmund Ho

Students and teachers agree the subject can help boost critical thinking and analytical skills

By Edmund Ho |

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Most surveyed students thought that liberal studies improved their analytic skills.

A majority of teachers and students believe liberal studies to be very useful, despite it requiring more preparation on the part of the teachers and difficult topics, according to a new survey released yesterday by a think tank.

The survey, which was conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups think tank Youth Ideas, gathered opinions from 126 liberal studies teachers and more than 860 former and current students. More than 95 per cent of the teachers surveyed said that liberal studies improves students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, and 77 per cent thought it strengthened students’ communication skills.

The surveyed students responded similarly; more than 80 per cent thought that liberal studies improved their analytic skills. However, less than half of them thought it improved other aspects, such as communication and interdisciplinary thinking.

Something is seriously wrong with the HKDSE Liberal Studies curriculum

Lauren Faith Lau, 18, from International Christian Quality Music Secondary and Primary School, studied liberal studies as part of her curriculum, and says that "this subject effectively helps raise students’ awareness of what's happening in society." Lau adds that it also encourages a critical and analytical mindset in students.

However, Miuccia Chan, 17, Maryknoll Convent School, said that while the intention of the liberal studies curriculum is to promote critical thinking, the curriculum only "scratches the surface" of these range of topics. "Frankly, the study of the subject does not foster analytical thinking and the questions asked are also quite elementary and irrelevant to the core of the problems raised," she argues.

On the other hand, when teachers were asked to rank the amount of work they do to prepare for lessons from zero (no work) to 10, their average scores were around eight, citing the constant need to research and update their lesson plans with new information.

HKDSE Liberal Studies exam harder than last year and touched on sense of belonging

Students agreed, saying that the hardest thing was that topics were too difficult, and that constant practice was necessary to keep up to date with current issues.

"Liberal studies is a good way to let students understand what's happening in our society," says Taylor Lam, 18, of Tang King Po School. He says the subject "helps us develop our critical thinking by reading newspapers, and through discussions with friends and teachers," but he undestands why some students find it stressful.

He says the unpredictability of who's grading the papers, as well as the topics makes it "difficult and stressful for students."

Edited by Nicole Moraleda