The 21st century is a rapidly-developing era in which students face social, economic and political changes, which also bring diverse and complicated values. These have created opportunities and challenges on students’ personal development, learning and future careers. Schools have to provide an appropriate curriculum to cater for the needs of students on their personal growth and future development so Life and Society (S1-3) has been drawn up for this very purpose.
With the advent of the first decade of the Millennium, Hong Kong has been experiencing rapid changes on the economic, social and political fronts. Facts such as greater economic integration with the mainland (particularly with the Pan-Pearl River Delta Region), opportunities and challenges brought about by rapid economic growth on the mainland, increasing global economic interdependence, greater social diversity and Hong Kong’s move towards universal suffrage for the selection of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council will bring the next generation face to face with new social, economic and political landscapes as well as new ideologies. In a curriculum document prepared by the Curriculum Development Council the following statements were written: “…contemporary society has undergone significant changes and rapid development…” and “students…need to have an in-depth understanding of themselves, the local community, the nation and the world if they are to become confident, informed and responsible persons.”1 With the second decade just around the corner, schools must ensure that students become knowledgeable with these trends so that they can participate fully in the development of the society in the future.
The introduction of Liberal Studies as a core subject in the senior secondary curriculum requires junior secondary students to acquire solid foundation knowledge on Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships, Hong Kong Today, Modern China and Globalization, etc. The current S1-3 EPA and Social Studies were developed during the last century to meet educational needs at that time but they do not provide the essential learning experiences students need for tomorrow. Life and Society (S1-3) integrates and updates the curriculum for these two subjects and provides a broader perspective on life and society. It effectively supports progress in Liberal Studies and other PSHE subjects at senior secondary level.
The open and flexible curriculum framework of the Personal, Social and Humanities Education Key Learning Area (hereafter “PSHE KLA”) enables schools to adopt different modes of curriculum organization to achieve the learning targets stated in Personal, Social and Humanities Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (hereafter “PSHE KLA Guide”) (pp. 23-24). This curriculum framework has been implemented in schools for almost decade. In order to facilitate further development of the PSHE curriculum framework, a set of essential learning elements has been developed in Life and Society (S1-3) to serve as a frame of reference, against which schools can analyse and assess their own school-based curricula. This set of essential learning elements is a guide of schools to plan and make decisions on their curricula.