Hong Kong’s new patriotism-boosting curriculum may exclude written exams

Christine Choi

25th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) Secretary for Education, Christine Choi Yuk-lin, has announced that the city’s primary school students may be exempt from written tests and exams as part of a new humanities curriculum aimed at bolstering patriotism. Instead, the government is considering alternative assessment methods, including quizzes and creative tasks like drawing.

During a radio programme on Saturday, Choi proposed that traditional written assessments may not be the optimal way to evaluate what students have absorbed from the new curriculum. The government is exploring more dynamic and diverse teaching methods, where teachers can assess student understanding through discussions, observations, and even non-verbal cues like eye contact.

The proposed assessment methods could include question-and-answer sessions, quizzes, competitions, and encouraging students to depict their understanding of a topic through drawings. These methods aim to provide a more holistic view of a student’s comprehension and engagement with the subject matter.

The humanities subject, along with a new science course, will replace the general studies course, introduced in 1996, starting from the 2025-26 academic year. The revamped curriculum will place a substantial emphasis on patriotic education, with students expected to dedicate two to three lessons per week to each of these new subjects.

The curriculum content will include learning about the accomplishments of the Chinese Communist Party and an understanding of the national security law. The curriculum designers have confirmed that these new elements will constitute about 10% of the overall subject matter.

The Education Bureau has clarified that the new curriculum will continue to rely heavily on the general studies format but will integrate additional elements of Chinese culture, history, and geography to enhance patriotic education. Over six years of primary school education, roughly 25% of the subject’s classes will be dedicated to learning about the country.

However, the school sector has expressed concerns about the new curriculum. Some representatives argue that it is overloaded and fails to streamline repetitive elements, raising fears that teachers may resort to relying heavily on textbooks.

In response, Choi urged teachers to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the entire curriculum before starting and to adequately prepare for lessons. She emphasised that understanding the concept of “security”—a key topic in national security law education—should extend beyond legislative focus to include areas like food, online safety, and transport.

To support the transition, the Education Bureau will offer up to 4,000 training places annually for educators tasked with teaching the new humanities subject. Teachers responsible for the new science subject will receive 30 hours of instruction. The move aims to ensure that teachers can adapt their teaching strategies to the demands of the new curriculum and effectively lead their students through the changing educational landscape.