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Education reform in Hong Kong: Are we going too far?. Chi Chung LAM Visiting Professor Curriculum, Teaching and Learning AG, NIE. To answer this question. What are the changes? What are the outcomes? Sustainability of the system?. The changes. Curriculum

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education reform in hong kong are we going too far

Education reform in Hong Kong: Are we going too far?

Chi Chung LAM

Visiting Professor

Curriculum, Teaching and Learning AG,


to answer this question
To answer this question
  • What are the changes?
  • What are the outcomes?
  • Sustainability of the system?
the changes
The changes
  • Curriculum
  • Educational and school management
  • New academic structure (334 reform)
the change curriculum
The change: Curriculum
  • Learning to learn
    • whole-person development
    • life-long learning
      • emphasis: generic skills
    • life-wide learning
generic skills
Generic skills
  • Collaboration skills
  • Communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Information technology skills
  • Numeracy skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Self-management skills
  • Study skills
4 key means
4 key means
  • moral and civic education
  • reading to learn
  • project learning
  • information technology for interactive learning
the changes1
The changes
  • Education and school management:
    • Accountability and managerialism
      • Hold schools and teachers accountable for their work
        • Quality assurance review/ school review
        • Opening up information of school and school performance
        • Participation of the public (parents, alumni, and the public) in school management
        • Induce competition among schools
        • Territory-wide System Assessment (P3, P6 & S3)
          • These scores + School Certificate exam and A-level exam results: value added figures)
academic structure 334 reform
Academic structure: 334 reform
  • 2004: first proposed
  • 2005: decided to move ahead
  • 2009: implementation at S4
  • 334 reform: change in academic structure
    • From to 3.3.4
      • i.e. 3 years (lower sec), 2 years (upper sec), 2 years (sixth form/JC), 3 years (undergraduate)
      • To 3 years (lower sec), 3 years (upper sec), 4 years (undergraduate)
    • Only one public examination at the end of secondary education
      • The old system: two exam: school cert (O level) and A-level

12 year: free education

  • The importance of education in the eyes of the parents AND
  • The high level of economic devt:
    • Virtually all students will stay in school after 9 years of compulsory education
the major challenge
The major challenge
  • Catering for individual differences
    • Individual differences among students: widening with age (Review of 9 year compulsory education, 1998)
    • The extension of senior secondary education from 2 years to 3 years: means most students will stay on for one more year.
      • Old system: only 40% of the O-level students could proceed to A-level
  • No streaming
  • All students: 4 core subjects
    • English, Chinese, Mathematics & Liberal Studies
  • Electives: 1-3 traditional academic subjects
    • And/Or Applied Learning subjects
what are the impacts of the education reform
What are the impacts of the education reform?
  • Students’ learning outcomes
    • PISA: 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009
  • Overall, Hong Kong students performed well compared with students in most other countries, ranking first in mathematics, third in science, and sixth in reading among the participating countries. Hong Kong got 560 on the mathematical literacy scale1 , outperforming all the other participating countries significantly except Japan (557) and Korea (547). Hong Kong scored 541 on the scientific literacy scale. Only Korea (552) and Japan (550) performed better than Hong Kong among all the participating countries, but the differences were not statistically significant. On the combined reading scale, Hong Kong obtained a score of 525. Only one country, Finland (546), performed significantly better than Hong Kong. In reading, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland also performed better than Hong Kong, but the differences were not statistically significant.
2006 science
2006 Science
  • Finland, with an average of 563 score points, was the highest-performing country
  • Six other high-scoring countries had mean scores of 530 to 542 points: Canada, Japan and New Zealand and the partner countries/economies Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei and Estonia.
2006 reading
2006 Reading
  • Korea, with 556 score points, was the highest-performing country in reading. Finland followed second with 547 points and the partner economy Hong Kong-China third with 536 points.
  • Across the OECD area, reading performance generally remained flat between PISA 2000 and PISA 2006.
  • However, two OECD countries (Korea and Poland) and five partner countries/economies (Chile, Liechtenstein, Indonesia, Latvia and Hong Kong-China) have seen significant rises in reading performance since PISA 2000.

Korea increased its reading performance between PISA 2000 and PISA 2006 by 31 score points, mainly by raising performance standards among the better performing students.

  • Hong Kong-China has increased its reading performance by 11 score points since 2000.
2006 mathematics
2006 Mathematics
  • Finland and Korea, and the partners Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong-China, outperformed all other countries/economies in PISA 2006.
2009 pisa
2009 PISA
  • Hong Kong:
  • Ranking
  • Reading : 4th
  • Math: 3rd
  • Science: 3rd

Not only PISA, PIRLS also showed students have improved in reading competency

  • The 4 key areas: i.e. IT, reading, project…
    • Implemented
  • More new school-based curriculum initiatives, in particular in primary schools
  • Classroom teaching:
    • More student-centred methods used
preface to the progress report on the edu reform 4 dec 2006
Preface to the Progress report on the Edu Reform (4), Dec., 2006
  • The Education Reform is a mammoth and complex task. Reform proposals spanned across areas which are interrelated. Adjustments in one area may have significant impact on other areas. Changes will inevitably give rise to anxiety, difficulties and challenges. In implementing the reform initiatives, our educators have worked diligently with devotion and commitment. Expected improvements are now gradually taking place in teaching and learning in schools. Our efforts are bearing fruits. The Education and Manpower Bureau and the education sector seem to have sailed through the most difficult period in the establishment of rapport and partnership.
    • Arthur Li (Secretary for Education and Manpower), 2006

So, isn’t the answer to the topic of the presentation very obvious?

  • But: outcomes of a change:
    • More than students’ learning outcomes
    • See for example, Stake’s countenance approach & Stufflebeam’s CIPP model
    • Let’s look at three phenomena before making the final verdict

Pressure on teachers: increasing

  • Overwork: a committee was set up in 2006 to look into the matter
  • But still very heavy
  • Not only teachers, principals also face similar problem
  • Getting more and more difficult to attract quality young graduates to the profession

Teachers’: loss their sense of professional satisfaction

  • They complained that they had been pushed to take up many “non-edu” work
  • Ho, Y.F. (2006)
intensified pressure in secondary schools
Intensified pressure in secondary schools
  • The introduction of new senior secondary schools
    • Upset the ecology in schools
    • The introduction of Liberal Studies as a compulsory subject: a redundancy of teachers in all subjects
    • Teachers: have to be retrained to take up LS
      • If each school needs 8 teachers, nearly 4000 teachers have to be retrained
what is ls
What is LS?

A transdisciplinary subject

6 units: from three areas:

  • Self and personal development
    • Personal development and interpersonal relationships
  • Society and culture
    • Hong Kong Toady
    • Modern China
    • Globalisation
  • Science, technology and the environment
    • Public Health
    • Energy technology & the Environment

Use contemporary issues as a platform to:

Chinese Language


  • study contemporary events not covered by any single disciplines (Awareness)
  • expand knowledge & perspectives beyond single disciplines (Broadening)
  • connect knowledge and concepts across different disciplines (Connecting & Critical thinking)

English Language


Issues in

Liberal Studies

Other Learning




liberal studies
Liberal Studies
  • Not only subject content knowledge
  • Also new pedagogy: issue-based enquiry learning
    • Centred around generic skills
    • Multiple perspectives
    • Values teaching
  • Assessed in public examination
  • Independent Enquiry Study: school-based assessment

Lam & Chan (2011) find:

  • Schools find it difficult to cope with LS
    • Attempt to scale it down
    • For example
      • Assign two or even six teachers to teach one class
      • Independent inquiry study: students are given a limited choice of topics
  • Teachers’ morale and subject identity crisis
  • As good subject teachers are assigned to teach LS, the devt of other subjects is adversely affected
the backwash effect of tsa
The backwash effect of TSA
  • Performance of students in TSA (P3, P6 & S3) counts
  • The data: used to judge and monitor schools’ performance
  • Back to drill and practice
  • a search of the Commercial Press on 31 March, 2011: 125 exercise books for TSA, mostly for P.3 and P.6