Face off: Is liberal studies able to improve Hong Kong students’ critical thinking skills?


Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Joanne Ma |

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Liberal studies has been criticised for being too political and too mechanical.

Nemo Yu, 14, Carmel Secondary School

Liberal studies can definitely help improve Hong Kong students’ critical-thinking skills. The subject exposes students to what’s happening around the world, and teaches them to think independently and objectively about those issues, while stressing the importance of breaking down and closely analysing the information they receive.

It doesn’t explicitly teach students how to think critically, but it encourages them to look at an issue from different points of view and to consider the bigger picture. This allows them to analyse matters more objectively and rationally.

When students who have studied liberal studies are faced with information in the future, they would be less inclined to take things at face value or make snap judgments. In other words, they would be able to think deeply about current affairs.

Considering these advantages, it is undeniable that liberal studies indirectly improves students’ critical-thinking skills.

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Laila Joy Albuquerque, 18, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Anyone who has studied liberal studies will have gained a good understanding of current global issues, but the rigid syllabus and marking scheme take away the students’ freedom to think critically and creatively.

The subject seems to prioritise memorising facts and data from textbooks rather than having debates and discussions about controversial topics. What’s more, students are generally limited to their textbooks, rather than getting different perspectives on a topic. Therefore, students are not able to use their critical thinking skills.

The fact that students are basically spoon-fed information also removes the need to seek out information on their own to analyse and interpret issues. Even if their teacher do encourage students to have more discussions in class, the subject’s exam structure and marking scheme do not help in any way.

Students are not given a lot of time to complete their liberal studies paper, and simply need to recall prepared arguments to excel in the exam. The subject is meant to raise global-minded, politically aware citizens, but it actually focuses on rote-learning and speed-writing skills rather than enhancing students’ critical-thinking skills.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda