2014．第42卷第1期（Vol. 42 No. 1）．pp. 141–160
Identifying the Epochal and Educational Meanings of Liberal Studies in Senior Secondary Forms: A Sociology-of-Curriculum Analysis
2013年夏天，部分社會人士發表連串言論，對實施了六年的香港高中通識科作出了一連串批評，不單質疑通識科在香港高中課程及銜接大學學制結構上的「三必」（必修、必考、必計）地位，還批評中學文憑試通識科考卷內設有必答題，更抨擊高中通識科在課程及評核上太偏重政治議題，致被政團與政黨利用作政治宣傳而被「政治化」。他們對通識科的意見已先後受到不少前線教育工作者有力的反駁。然而，本人卻認為，是次爭議蘊含着更深層次的教育及社會時代意義，它不單涉及把通識科視作香港未來公民在十二年普及教育結業階段的一個學習經歷的本質與意義，更關乎香港下一代的個人成長以至社會發展。據此，本文把有關高中通識科的爭議放置在香港特別行政區所處的社會及時代脈絡下，特別是21世紀網絡社會（network society）與資訊社會（information society）的脈絡，以考察高中通識科的時代意義及社會教育本質，期能確認通識科在香港高中課程中的「三必」地位。其次，本文亦會就高中通識科在教學取向（特別是議題探究取向）上是否需要「去政治化」的爭議，把它放置在「合理多元主義」（reasonable pluralism）及「多元文化主義」（multiculturalism）的兩種視域內，以考察議題探究取向以至高中通識科的社會及政治教育意義。
In the summer of 2013, some public figures in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) waged a series of criticisms on Liberal Studies (LS), one of the core subjects in the New Senior Secondary Curriculum (NSSC). Not only have they queried the triple-compulsory status of LS (i.e., students being compulsory to take, to be examined and be counted) in the advancement mechanism from senior secondary to university education in the HKSAR, they have also queried the setting up of compulsory questions in LS examination papers in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) examination. Furthermore, they have criticized the contents of both the curriculum and assessment of LS as too political, and accused that local political organizations and parties have politicized the subject for their own political agenda. Though these accusations have forcefully been rebutted by frontline practitioners in schools, yet I believe that the dispute involves much deeper meanings in education and in the socio-historical context of the HKSAR at large. They concern not only the nature and meanings of one of the core learning experiences of all Hong Kong students at the exit-points of their twelve-year universal education, but also concern the definitions of the competence and virtue of the future citizens of the HKSAR and the prospects of Hong Kong society as a whole. Accordingly, this article will first locate the dispute against the social and historical contexts of the society of the HKSAR. These contexts are the network society and the information society of the 21st century. It attempts to examine the epochal meanings and educational significance of LS. Secondly, this article will examine the controversy about whether the pedagogical approach of LS, more specifically the Issue Enquiry Approach, should be “de-politicalized” by setting the controversy against two perspectives, namely “reasonable pluralism” and “multiculturalism.” The article will try to substantiate that social and political enquiry is in essence the very core of liberal education in the 21st century.
Keywords: liberal education; issue enquiry approach; sociology of curriculum; network society; multiculturalism