Newspapers 'not fit for classes'

Local | Mandy Zheng 8 Sep 2020

A university president has warned that many liberal studies teachers are using unfair and sensational newspaper reports as teaching materials.

Wong Yuk-shan of Open University said: "You can't deny that nowadays, newspapers often conduct unfair reporting. They include many unproven things, some are even fictional."

He was commenting on a survey result, in which around 79 percent of 484 liberal studies teachers polled said that newspapers were a source for their teaching material.

The survey, commissioned by the Our Hong Kong Foundation and conducted by Lingnan University, also found that some 39 percent of teachers chose social media as a source, while about 87 percent used textbooks and reference books.

Our Hong Kong Foundation, founded by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2014, published a report yesterday suggesting that the subject's teaching method be revamped.

"They [newspapers] are not knowledge [that we can teach]. It won't help students learn how to tell right from wrong by discussing unfair and sensational reporting," Wong, who is the lead adviser of the think tank's report, added.

"If students arbitrarily lash out at things they only have a shallow understanding of, they might even become narrow-minded," Wong said, without giving examples.

He also criticized the liberal studies curriculum as "loose" and heavily focused on current affair debates, which deviated from the subject's original goal of developing independent thinking.

The foundation also urged the government to start vetting liberal studies textbooks and its supplementary materials.

While the subject's textbooks are not required to undergo government review, their publishers can seek advice from the education bureau, which launched professional consultancy services last September.

Although participation is voluntary, the bureau has warned it would not introduce those that failed to be reviewed on its website, with 11 such textbooks having been examined by mid-August.

But the foundation said this vetting mechanism came too late. It suggested that a wider range of materials should be included, such as workbooks, listening materials and teaching tools.

Separately, the think tank advised authorities to replace the existing grading system with a pass or fail in the Diploma of Secondary Education.

"This way, students can better enjoy liberal studies education, and focus on developing critical thinking skills instead of getting high scores," the foundation's executive director Eva Cheng Li Kam-fun said.

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