Talking points: What's wrong with Liberal Studies?

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.


Other conversations:

- What do you think about e-learning?

- How can we eliminate the problem of caged homes and subdivided flats in Hong Kong?

- "If I were gay/lesbian, I would like to tell the world ..."

- Things I wish to know in life that I never learn about in school

- What I wish I could tell my parents

- The school rule I would change if I were the principal

- How should schools start their Monday morning assembly?

- What worries you most about the upcoming school year?


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* jason_hung


To me, I think the syllabus of Liberal Studies varies too much every year and students also have to come up with different daily news. This subject undoubtedly causes the greatest pressure for students like we to bear.

Besides, we are quite exactly doing the same thing in Chinese and English Lan

Tsun Sing Yip


Liberal Studies is a good chance for us to concern about the world. But many students only cram news and knowledge into their mind so that they can take the HKDSE well. Isn't it meaningless?

* odessa_fung


Liberal Studies is a quite difficult subject as students can't prepare for it. Questions are set in a way that no one can actually predict. There is no way to recite model answers and fill the examination paper up using those 'remembered-by-heart' model answers.

* charis_hui


For me, time constraint is really a sting in the tail. We often have to analyze different perspectives in one question in order to demonstrate our critical thinking skills. I believe if the time allowance is lengthened, our performance will be better.

Suskihanna Gurung


Though Liberal Studies tries to show that Hong Kong's education system is more than rote learning, it has failed it's role through its marking style. Liberal Studies is a way to express one's opinion about important topics. But we learn to answer the questions through a set of model answers and tech

* cammy_lam


Liberal Studies requires students to answer questions by using different perspectives and techniques. However, it is the not original purpose of this subject,which is to encourage students to broaden their horizons.Forcing us to use exam skills is not what education is.

Plato Tsoi


Liberal studies was made to teach students how to use critical thinking or be independent thinkers. But in my opinion, Liberal studies only makes students memorize the important knowledge without understanding. As a result the objective of liberal studies is completely distorted.
It gives too much pressure oh students because of thinking too much on how to write the essay or exam. liberal studies suppose to be something for students to express on a topic with freedom. But teachers force us to use a specific format like what Joy said. which again defeats the purpose of Ls.