Focus on ethics and critical thinking
The department of religion and philosophy at Baptist University offers a master of arts in liberal studies and ethics to prepare secondary school teachers to teach the new liberal studies curriculum.
Dr Jonathan Chan Keung-lap, a lecturer on the course and last year's programme director, says the course provides in-depth knowledge on the six modules in senior secondary schools' liberal studies syllabus, while retaining a strong focus on ethics and critical thinking.
The core topics in the new syllabus include ethical issues in personal development and interpersonal relationships; values and socio-cultural issues in Hong Kong today; and traditional values and moral challenges in modern China.
"Liberal studies is still fairly new to the curriculum and there is a need to have a formal course to prepare teachers of this subject in senior secondary schools," Chan says.
The programme will spend more time clarifying concepts, analysing multiple interpretive perspectives, assessing arguments, identification of the conflicting values and demonstrating methods of resolving these conflicts.
"It leads students to see and think of liberal studies from a higher level," Chan says. "They are trained to think independently so that they are able to help their senior secondary students extend their knowledge and apply evaluations appropriate to their own changing personal and social circumstances. The understanding of themselves, their society, their nation and the world will be enhanced."
Assessment includes a group presentation, term paper and an examination.
Most of the students are from the education sector, including teachers from secondary schools and tuition centres. Chan says: "There are also applicants from the information technology and banking sectors."
Students are able to pursue the course part-time, which takes a year to complete. Classes are held on Saturday afternoons so as to avoid clashes with the working hours of teachers.
Students are also able to study the course full-time during the summer holidays, from mid-July until August.
Admission will start on the first of January and run until the end of August every year.
Every year about 60 students enrol. Applicants should possess an undergraduate degree from a recognised university or comparable institution.
Chan says: "Applicants from the education sector will have an advantage."
Edgar Chow, who graduated from the course last year, teaches liberal studies at a tuition centre. He has a degree in psychology from Upper Iowa University-Hong Kong Campus.
Chow decided to take the course to gain more knowledge as he had been assigned to teach the new senior secondary syllabus.
"The course was very informative and really helped me to tackle topics in liberal studies. I think the course on ethics helped me to build a firm foundation [in order] to understand and analyse topics in liberal studies. Equipped with that knowledge, I am able to have a better understanding when doing case studies and explain things to my students."
Grace Siu Chui-chi, who teaches liberal studies in a secondary school, graduated from the course last year. She took the course to upgrade her knowledge in order to become a more proficient teacher in the new 3-3-4 education system.
Siu says that the year it takes to complete the course suited her as it allowed her to get the qualification, prepare for the introduction of the new educational system and continue with her teaching job.
Siu says the foundation course, entitled critical thinking for liberal studies, made a favourable impression on her. "Liberal studies is a subject that leads students to consider both sides of the argument and the course really opened up my mind on how to lead students to think critically," she says.
At your fingertips
- The programme aims to prepare teachers for the senior secondary schools' liberal studies syllabus
- Provides in-depth knowledge on the six modules in senior secondary schools' liberal studies syllabus
- Students are able to pursue the course part-time, which takes a year to complete, or study on an intensive full-time basis during the summer holidays in mid-July and August
- Applicants should possess an undergraduate degree from a recognised university or comparable institution