In this article, we will comment on the
Senior Secondary Computer Curriculum in Hong Kong from various perspectives.
At present, we have three different computer curricula for the senior
forms. The first one is the 'S4-S5 Computer and Information Technology
Curriculum' which is a new curriculum released in 2003. This is,
in fact, a combined and revised version of the old 'S4-S5 Computer
Studies Curriculum' and the 'ASL Computer Applications Curriculum'.
I shall refer to the subjects taught in the curricula as Information
and Computing Technology (ICT)-related subjects. In Hong Kong, it
is very strange that we have so many ICT-related subjects, but they
have no connection to each other. We shall not discuss how these
curricula emerged, but instead, we shall discuss the strength and
weakness of them from the education point of view.
ICT curriculum should be up-to-date
According to the Education and Manpower
Bureau, ICT-related subjects are grouped under the Technology Education
Key Learning Area. The ICT-related subjects should be up-to-date
and applicable to daily life. What is the meaning of studying ICT-related
subjects which cannot be applied to daily life?
Unfortunately the ICT curriculum in Hong Kong is rather out-dated.
The 'ASL Computer Applications Curriculum' and 'AL Computer Studies
Curriculum' were revised in 1998, which is more than six years ago.
in the 'AL Computer Studies Curriculum' there are many outdated
topics, like machine logic, which are not taught even in universities
nowadays. Another controversial issue is the selection of programming
language. Pascal is still taught in the 'AL Computer Studies Curriculum'
because Pascal is useful for understanding structured programs and
is easy to learn. However, how frustrating a student will be if
he have learned Pascal thoroughly but then find he cannot apply
it to his Web page.
is also ridiculous that the programming language specified in the
curriculum in the year 2000 was pure Pascal, though the up-to-date
language C or Pascal were already developed then. Why not move forward
even to C++ or Java? Data Structure is an important topic in Computer
Science, but there is not any book teaching Data Structure in Pascal
today; the books are all in C++ or Java. I have heard once a teacher
said, 'We are teaching programming, not language.' I totally disagree
with him because we are talking about Technology Education. Some
educators suggest to use 'pseudo code' instead of a specific programming
language. We shall discuss this point later.
On the other hand, the Examination Authority
have been trying to amend the outdated 'ASL Computer Applications
Curriculum' by adjusting the examination paper. From 2002 onwards,
they have placed emphasis on Internet Technology, Database and SQL,
and using Spreadsheet to process data. These are all important in
computer application today, and I can say they are on the right
track. Furthermore, there have not been any question on outdated
topics (which exist in the curriculum) since 2000. However, when
it comes to the Teacher Assessment Scheme, it becomes a mess. From
the sample papers provided by the Examination Authority, it can
be seen that there are still many outdated questions in this aspect.
These questions are really simple and even a primary student can
answer them. If a student follows exactly the standard of these
sample papers, we cannot say he is of the 'Advanced Level'. The
Teacher Assessment Scheme is actually a poor School-based Assessment
which is worth further discussion.
'S4-S5 Computer and Information Technology Curriculum' is the best
among the three curricula. However, there are still many points
that are worth more discussions, for example, fairness in assessment
method, the overlap between the Core Modules and Elective Modules,
selection of programming languages, etc. Since we do not have any
examination paper and statistical figure of this curriculum yet,
I am not going to comment on it any more.
According to newly proposed '3-3-4 Senior
Secondary Curriculum' the subjects taught in the above three curricula
will be combined into a new subject called 'Information and Communication
Technology'. The framework of the curriculum will be based on the
current 'S4-S5 Computer and Information Technology Curriculum'.
After attending the consultation meetings of this new ICT subject,
I think the curriculum committee is on the right track, because
the new curriculum emphasizes on three areas: Internet Technology,
Computer Systems and Information Processing using SQL and Spreadsheet.
They are all important in daily application. In addition, it seems
that they will introduce a lot of client-server concepts in the
Elective Modules. Students will be required to understand security
and scripting in both the client and server side within the network
environment. If these topics are really added to the curriculum,
students will be really learning the technology. Furthermore, it
adds diversity to the selection of programming languages: PHP, JSP,
XML, ASP, Java, C++, Visual Basic, etc. They are all the hottest
languages in use at present, but no one can say which one is the
best. Therefore, the use of 'pseudo code' in examination becomes
appropriate. Of course, there should be more discussion about this
kind of written practical using 'pseudo code'.
In conclusion, I think the development of the ICT curriculum in
Hong Kong still faces many uncertainties. Will it be a fading-out
subject after the '3-3-4 Senior Secondary Curriculum' is implemented?
Will the ICT teachers upgrade themselves so that they can teach
the latest technology to their students? For the assessment, will
a better assessment method emerge? Personally, I also hope that
practical examination will be available, through sponsorship by
the IT industry. I think the government should seriously consider
that if they really want to boost IT in Hong Kong, they should invest
more in IT education so that the modulation on School-based Assessment
is based on the student's project itself and not on his written
examination, otherwise, the study of ICT will still be examination-oriented.