Liberal Studies Is Helping HK Students: Expert

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2019-07-11 HKT 12:49

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  • Liberal studies is helping HK students: expert

Professor Stephen Chiu speaks to RTHK's Janice Wong

The Chair Professor of Sociology at Education University, Stephen Chiu, on Thursday dismissed claims that the subject of liberal studies is radicalising students, saying he believes it has, instead, helped them to develop important skills.

“I surveyed over 2,500 form five students some years ago, about 70 percent of them said that they liked liberal studies and they enjoy the content and the mode of teaching in the subject,” he told RTHK’s Janice Wong.

“Overall, I think the liberal studies experiment, if I put it that way, is a success – in broadening students’ horizons, in developing 21st century skills, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity. All these, we feel are useful for their future development,” he said.

“Also for helping them to develop inclusiveness, tolerance, open-mindedness … I think this is critical for students to equip them to face the very sharp social and political contradictions in society,” Chiu added.

Chiu's comment comes after pro-government figures, including former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, blamed liberal studies at secondary schools for encouraging violent protests among young people during the recent anti-extradition demonstrations.

Chiu said the subject is much needed in a divided society like Hong Kong.

“We really need students to exercise their critical thinking, to have reflective power, to screen false information that they receive from the internet, so that they can make sensible and reasonable decisions as 21st century citizens of Hong Kong,” he said.

Chiu said he doesn’t think teachers are using the subject to influence young people’s political views.

“Overall, teachers are able to follow their professional conducts, and to suspend – to a large extent – their own personal views on these matters,” he said. “Teachers are all ordinary citizens that may have their own standpoint one way or the other, but I feel that, and my observation is that teachers are able to handle this professionally.”

He also said the subject should continue to be compulsory, with some fine-tuning of the mode of assessment, and more resources should be provided for schools and teachers to improve the content.