While promotion of quality education is a goal aspired to internationally, implementation of such a goal in schooling through new academic structures and studies has become an important issue and further inspired vigorous debates. The recently proposed career oriented curriculum in Hong Kong aims at equipping students with the skills required to take control of their own learning and to better prepare them for the world beyond school. This article discusses the policy implications and practical implementation issues associated with this new initiative in the context of the promotion of social justice, career development, and teaching thinking.
In response to the new challenges in the twenty-first century, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has reviewed the aims of education (Education Commission, 1999) and the school curriculum (Curriculum Development Council, 2000) and has proposed a series of short-term (2001-2005), medium-term (2006-2010) and long-term (beyond 2011) curriculum plans. The Hong Kong community has subsequently endorsed an educational blueprint with the six-year instead of the existing seven-year secondary education and the four-year instead of the existing three-year undergraduate university education [www.emb.gov.hk/334].
The educational goal within the first decade of the twenty-first century is to enable the Hong Kong students to attain all-round development and lifelong learning. Further to the release of The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education - Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong (Education and Manpower Bureau, 2005), the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region would consult the education sector on curriculum details of the new senior secondary (NSS) subjects to be launched in 2009. The consultation also includes further development of Career-oriented Studies (COS) and provisions for students with special educational needs. It is in this context of educational reform and changes in the school sector that a proposed career-oriented curriculum was reported and discussed with a view to addressing the call for social justice, career development, and teaching thinking.
II. Making Sense of Career-oriented Studies (COS)
As an integrated structure of the new senior secondary (NSS) curriculum of which all students will study the core subjects of Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies in the three years from SS1 to SS3 in Hong Kong, the proposed Career-oriented Studies (COS) to be launched in 2009 is designed to widen the learning opportunities for students. The COS courses comprise between 10 to 30 per cent of a student's learning program in SS2 and SS3. These courses are relevant to the social and economic development of Hong Kong and to meet the needs of specific professions. Guidance and advice will be given starting from the first year of senior secondary education and student can enroll in one, two, or three COS courses.
Most educators agree that the education system should give all students as rigorous and relevant educational experiences as possible. While it is important to deliberate on the COS framework which best complements the NSS curriculum, it is of equal importance to explain and understand the choices of COS courses to be offered to the students. The concept of social justice needs to be explored with consideration being given to the construction of Career-oriented Studies and the delivery of career guidance in relation to compulsory schooling, and whether it serves to promote or restrict a socially just agenda.
School counselors must play an integral role in redefining education to coincide with essential employability skills and technology competencies of the twenty-first century (Sum, Kirsch & Taggett, 2002). If Hong Kong is committed to equal educational opportunity and democracy, there should be a commitment to the workplace literacy skills of all students. …