- 国際教育 (ISSN:09185364)
- vol.22, pp.105-120, 2016 (Released:2019-01-31)
This study focuses on the intention of incorporated “Liberal Studies” as a compulsory subject for all senior secondary students, its present-day impact on the social awareness of youngsters, and its influence on the Umbrella Movement of 2014. The study analyzes not only syllabi but also public examination questions including comments and scoring criteria in terms of the severely examination-orientated educational system in Hong Kong.
Liberal Studies consists of six modules as a cross-curriculum. Initially, in 1992, it was introduced for senior secondary third-grade students; in 2009, it was promoted from an elective to a compulsory subject. Eventually, it took over Citizenship Education shaping Civil Society across the handover. Finally, the premature intention matched the aim of shaping the knowledge-based economy underpinned by the education and curriculum reforms under the new Hong Kong government.
According to its developers, Hong Kong’s curriculum of Liberal Studies based on Independent Inquiry Study was designed to establish student-centered learning in the educational system, as well as to develop high-level learning skills, such as critical thinking, independent thinking and problem-solving. In other words, it aimed at fostering new generations who are different from the apolitical generations and have social awareness regarding civil society by utilizing live news media materials instead of textbooks. Both the Liberal Studies modules of Hong Kong Today and Modern China are deliberately designed to shape social awareness motivated critical thinking in students.
The first syllabus for the elective subject was issued in 1991; it was revised in 1996 and 2000, and subsequently in 2007 as a compulsory subject. Regarding the development of critical thinking, the previous three editions claimed to solely generate “critical awareness”; however, the 2007 edition embodied “positive values”, “proactive attitudes”, and “social awareness” concepts. The 2000 edition was relatively simple; in this edition, the concept of “democracy” was wholly absent and the concepts of “rule of law” and “freedom” were only partly discussed. Meanwhile, the 1996 edition was added to “press freedom” and compared to the Chinese official media, defined as the mouthpiece of the government and the Communist Party.
The 1991 and 1996 editions emphasized the critical difference between Hong Kong and China, “Socialism vs. Capitalism” and “China-model democracy vs. Western-model democracy”. The examination questions have consistently sparked fresh controversies, and the scoring criteria also have triggered an in-depth discussion on their exact framework as well as a statement on the highly critical analysis. However, regarding the perspectives toward China expressed by the questions, the dichotomy between the two has been altered to multiple perspectives so that students can understand China’s stance following the issuance of the 2000 edition.
In conclusion, the incorporation of Liberal Studies has strongly stimulated students’social awareness, and its impact expanded to all students after the subject became compulsory in 2009. Accordingly, this study indicates that university and senior secondary students, comprising the compulsory Liberal Studies generation, somehow embody critical thinking so that they frequently take an anti-government stance, including the creation of the Umbrella Movement.