Talking points: What's wrong with Liberal Studies?

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Joy Pamnani, 15, Po Leung Kuk Ngan Po Ling College

Liberal Studies is meant to allow students to develop an open mind through critical thinking. Students are introduced to a host of issues and are then taught to look at the issue from different perspectives.

But many teachers force their students to follow a particular writing style or stick to model answers. And most students do so, because they are scared they will be penalised in terms of marks if they don't. This defeats the whole purpose of Liberal Studies. If we are learning to express our opinions, why should we follow model answers?

Alex Chan, 17, University College London

Liberal Studies is meant to train our critical thinking skills. But when we look at the exam, we don't see how that's implemented. We are asked questions that seem to require fixed answers, according the marking scheme. I always thought the marking scheme was there just for reference, but we are confined to giving the exact ideas provided in the scheme.

I think there needs to be better communication between the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, the Education Bureau, the markers and the teachers about what exactly they want from the students. Do they want facts, or do they want our opinions? They keep saying the subject aims to improve our critical thinking, but I don't feel the current system helps us improve in that area.

I think we need to link the goal to the method by which it is achieved. I believe the failure in doing this is one of the main reasons British and American universities ignore Liberal Studies grades when making offers to students.

Kate Ng Yu-yan, 17, University of Hong Kong

What the HKEAA led us to believe about Liberal Studies wasn't really the full picture. For a start, there are hidden model answer formats that mean if students misinterpret some words in the question, a heavy penalty is imposed.

What's more, students have to think and write unbelievably fast to complete the paper, as there are so many questions. How can students master the skills needed to answer Liberal Studies questions? Our current method of "learning by doing" does not apply to this subject.

Jessie Pang Yu-tung, 17, True Light Girls' College

The biggest problem with Liberal Studies is that it is an exam-based subject. As such, lots of teachers and students focus more on acquiring the skills necessary to answer the questions than on discussing current affairs.

Instead of developing students' interest in current affairs, this only strengthens exam skills. It would be better if Liberal Studies was more coursework-based than exam-based.

Doris Lam, 16, St.Margaret's Co-educational English Secondary and Primary School

Although Liberal Studies encourages students to learn about what's happening in Hong Kong, I don't think it's fair that it is a core subject that is forced upon students.

While it is important to have some knowledge of current affairs, we shouldn't be examined on our understanding of social issues. Some students at my school didn't get in to university because they didn't pass this subject at DSE level.


Tell us what you think is wrong with Liberal Studies in the comment box below

In the next Talking Points, we'll be discussing how schools should start their Monday morning assemblies.


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