HK DSE first Citizenship and Social Development exam 'sets reassuring precedent'
Published: Apr 18, 2024 08:41 PM
Hong Kong file photo

Hong Kong file photo

With over 45,000 candidates registered to sit for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE)'s first exam of Citizenship and Social Development (CS) subject, replacing the previous controversial Liberal Studies subject, some representatives from the education sector told the Global Times on Thursday that the first CS subject exam sets a reassuring precedent for the future development of the subject. 

Some students who sat for the exam were quoted in media reports as saying that the level of difficulty was moderate, and the test covered a wide range of topics. 

CS has gradually been introduced as a core subject in Hong Kong high schools since the 2021-2022 academic year, replacing Liberal Studies, according to media reports. The subject's first related examination was held on Tuesday, with the assessment criteria being "met standard" and "not met standard." 

In this first exam paper, over two-thirds of the questions were related to topics such as national education and national security. 

After the exam, many students were visibly relieved, feeling that regular class attendance and the general national curriculum had prepared them well to tackle the questions. At the exam center in Concordia Lutheran School in North Point, a student named Tsang commented that the exam mainly required reading comprehension, with only a few harder questions necessitating memorization, expressing confidence in meeting the set standard, according to media reports. 

Another student surnamed Lee said the hardest part during the preparation process was content related to the Basic Law, which led to focused study before the exam.

Wong Chung Wai, vice principal of the school and CS subject teacher said that one of the aims of the subject is to enhance students' national identity. He believes that the exam's level of difficulty was moderate and anticipates that the pass rate for students will exceed 90 percent.

After implementing high school educational reform in Hong Kong in 2009, Liberal Studies became a compulsory subject. After events such as the illegal Occupy Central protest in 2014, the Mong Kok riots in 2016, and the "anti-extradition bill amendment" in 2019, Liberal Studies subject was believed to have indirectly led many young people to radicalism, increasing societal calls in Hong Kong for curriculum reform and enhanced civic literacy through stronger national education.

In June 2020, after the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, former chief executive Carrie Lam proposed, in her policy address, the strengthening of national education, and the Education Bureau soon announced the reform of Liberal Studies.

In early April 2021, the much-anticipated reform plan for Hong Kong's Liberal Studies was finally announced, renaming it to "Citizenship and Social Development," and eliminating the Independent Enquiry Study (IES) subject. 

CS is still a compulsory subject, structured around three core themes: Hong Kong, the nation, and the contemporary world, with a compulsory examination, but with reduced class hours of 130-150 hours, and opportunities for students to study on the mainland. 

Notably, high school students taking CS must visit the mainland at least once. 

This year's first DSE exam also included questions related to these educational tours. One Hong Kong student mentioned that his trip to Guangzhou, in South China's Guangdong Province, gave him a deeper understanding of different cultures, which was completely different from what he had seen online. 

Lawmaker Tang Fei, also the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, told the Global Times on Thursday that the new subject allows Hong Kong students to understand China's contemporary development and the historical context of Hong Kong issues more systematically, and has raised their awareness of matters related to national security. 

Local students now have more formalized and curriculum-based opportunities for interaction and field studies, as opposed to previous extracurricular activities, he said. 

Regarding the exam format, unlike the previous general studies exams, the new format includes multiple-choice questions and demands knowledge of certain facts, such as the Basic Law, the Greater Bay Area, and regulations related to the national flag and anthem, which were not previously required, Tang said. 

"Previously, the boundaries of teaching and learning were vague and unclear, and the national conditions were only very generally understood, but now it is much clearer," the education worker said. 

He also believes that the current CS curriculum and formalization policies are comprehensive, and the next steps include further implementation, especially as Article 23 legislation was just completed, requiring some updates, "sufficient time and patience are needed for everyone to adapt."