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Changing the Curriculum

Changing the Curriculum: The Impact of Reform on Primary Schooling in Hong Kong

Bob Adamson
Tammy Kwan
Ka-ki Chan
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    Changing the Curriculum
    Book Description:

    The Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) is arguably the most comprehensive, fundamental and controversial attempt to promote systemic curriculum reform in Hong Kong. It aimed at a radical change in the nature of knowledge, pedagogy and assessment in schools. After an initial phase of confusion and criticism, this ambitious reform was revamped and vigorously promoted, but within a few years, it totally lost momentum as other educational issues attracted the attention of policy-makers. This book traces the career of TOC and studies the impact of the reform on the education system, subjects, schools and teachers. Drawing on a four-year multi-level research project, the chapters provide a deep understanding of the complex nature of educational reform and how a new curriculum is interpreted, developed and implemented. Besides providing a fascinating portrayal of the experiences of the TOC reform, this book offers lessons for future curriculum change in Hong Kong and elsewhere. 'This', writes Ivor Goodson in the Foreword, 'is curriculum research at its best.'

    eISBN: 978-988-220-061-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. About the Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Foreword Contextualizing the Curriculum
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Ivor Goodson

    I have long been an admirer of the curriculum research that has emanated from Hong Kong. At its best, and this book is in that category, the work has been generative and insightful and has worked successfully across the many levels and arenas of curriculum action.

    Much of the curriculum research, at the moment, inhabits one of two polarities. The first accepts an uncritical belief in the ‘implementation’ of new reforms and initiatives. Schools are evaluated to see how ‘successfully’ they adopt and implement the wisdom of the prescribers. Writing elsewhere, I have called this kind of curriculum research ‘implementationist...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This book is derived from a four-year study of the impact of the implementation of the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) in primary schools in Hong Kong. The chapters in this book are not primarily designed to summarize the results of the evaluation study per se. These results were described in two evaluation reports (Morris et al. 1996; Morris et al. 1999) which had been submitted to the Education Department of the Hong Kong SAR government and were subsequently distributed to all primary schools in Hong Kong. Rather, our goal is to address a range of critical themes and issues relating...

  7. Part One The Policy Level

    • 1 Changing Hong Kong’s Schools
      (pp. 7-20)
      Bob Adamson and Paul Morris

      Curriculum reforms in recent decades have been characterized by a shift away from school-based initiatives towards state-mandated attempts to promote forms of outcomes-based education. The National Curriculum in the United Kingdom and the curriculum frameworks in Australia are two prime examples of this trend. Under the influence of the rapid movement of the economy away from a reliance on manufacturing and towards service industries, and the resulting change in the nature of the competencies needed by school-leavers, Hong Kong developed and introduced its own version of outcomes-based education in the early 1990s. This initiative was originally termed Targets and Target...

    • 2 The Commissioning and Decommissioning of Curriculum Reforms The Career of the Target Oriented Curriculum
      (pp. 21-40)
      Paul Morris

      The Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) is arguably the most comprehensive, fundamental and controversial attempt to promote systemic curriculum reform in Hong Kong’s primary schools. Its introduction in 1991, and subsequent promotion by the government, has generated emotions ranging from antipathy to a missionary commitment, provided extensive opportunities for research and consultancy, created a range of employment and promotion opportunities in the education bureaucracy, and created endless opportunities for the print media to fill their newspaper columns and for political posturing. Much of the discussion surrounding TOC has been disarticulated and confirms Cheng and Cheung’s (1995) observation that ‘contemporary discourse on...

  8. Part Two Schools and Teachers

    • Introduction
      (pp. 43-46)

      This part contains four case studies — three of schools and one of a teacher — that were conducted over an extended period by highly experienced educators in Hong Kong. The results are rich, three-dimensional pictures of the impact of reform on the grassroots reality, rather than mere snapshots.

      Chapter Three by Mun-ling Lo focuses on how the interaction between the culture of a school and the curriculum reform contributed to teachers’ learning and professional development, and how this in turn changed the culture of the school. Three phases were distinguished. In the first year, teachers’ view of their role...

    • 3 Learning Without Tears? The Relativity of a Curriculum Reform and Its Impact
      (pp. 47-80)
      Mun-ling Lo

      ‘Education is a complex system, and its reform is even more complex’ (Fullan and Miles 1995, p. 405). Failure to recognize this results in what Elmore describes as the basic pattern of reform efforts: ‘grand pretensions, faulty execution, puny results’ (Elmore 1997, p. 241). Educational reform is also unpredictable and sometimes irrational because it involves human beings creating their own realities that may be incongruent with those of policy-makers. Thus, educational change is a process of making sense of the multiple realities of people involved in the implementation process (Lighthall 1973; Fullan 1989, p. 184). Interpersonal and organizational aspects of...

    • 4 From Enthusiasm to Caution
      (pp. 81-104)
      Po-yuk Ko

      ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ This was an outcry from a school head at a seminar delivering the message of the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) reform. It seems inevitable that any educational innovation, even one that has been supported in principle, will face resistance. Studies in other parts of the world also support this view. Adams and Chen (1981) estimate that approximately seventy-five percent of all educational innovations fail to survive in the long term. Factors affecting the continuation of an educational innovation are complex. They include: whether the change is incorporated into the structure; whether...

    • 5 Special Schools and the Target Oriented Curriculum for Children with Mental Handicap
      (pp. 105-120)
      Mei-lan Au

      The purpose of this chapter is to consider special school teachers’ views of the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) for children with mental handicap. The chapter begins with a review of the provision of special education for children with mental handicap in Hong Kong and presents an account of how special schools became involved in the implementation of TOC. The features of TOC are compared to the central elements of the curriculum for children with mental handicap. The main focus of this chapter is on the opinions of the teachers in a school for children with moderate mental handicap that adopted...

    • 6 Emerging Through Participation The Professional Journey of a Primary School Chinese Language Teacher
      (pp. 121-140)
      Tammy Kwan and Dorothy Fung-ping Ng

      In Hong Kong, there is very little research literature on the professional development of teachers. However, it is a popular topic in the press, where there is a tendency for journalists to portray a negative image of the profession as being reluctant to face changes demanded by the Education Department (ED). As a stereotypical generalization, teachers are seen as hard-working but unable to demonstrate professional growth and development, remaining as they were when they had just completed their initial teacher education programme. Against this backdrop, this chapter tells the story of a primary Chinese Language teacher, Mr Pang, who is...

  9. Part Three Teaching and Learning

    • Introduction
      (pp. 143-144)

      The chapters in this part are each concerned with a specific element of the curriculum that was promoted by the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC): task-based learning, student-centred pedagogy, criterion-referenced assessment and catering for diversity. Emerging from the studies is how complex the processes of curriculum implementation can be. As Fullan (1993, p. 24) notes, change is a journey, not a blueprint — or even ‘likened to a planned journey into uncharted waters in a leaky boat with a mutinous crew’.

      Task-based learning was an important feature of TOC, but it represents uncharted territory to many in the education system. Annie...

    • 7 Tasks in English Language and Chinese Language
      (pp. 145-174)
      Annie Siu-yin Tong, Bob Adamson and Mary Man-wai Che

      In setting out learning targets for Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) subjects, official documents suggest that these targets be best achieved through pupils carrying out learning tasks. The rationale is that the targets are designed to encourage a learner-centred, process-oriented constructivist approach to learning, for which tasks are ideally suited. In particular, they provide the vehicle for pupils to use the five cross-curricular principles of learning promoted by TOC: problem-solving, reasoning, inquiring, communicating and conceptualizing. Tasks are defined in the TOC context as having the following characteristics (Education Department 1994, p. 18): they have a purpose which involves more than the...

    • 8 Beyond Labels Teacher-centred and Pupil-centred Activities
      (pp. 175-194)
      Ida Ah-chee Mok and Po-yuk Ko

      As noted throughout this book, Hong Kong classrooms have often been described as teacher-centred with an emphasis on learning by rote. Influenced by Western practices, teaching methods emphasizing student activity, self-regulation and student-centredness, with much co-operative and group work, have been strongly promoted. The Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) reform attempted to shift the prevailing teacher-centred pedagogy to one that encourages pupil-centred and group-based learning.

      However, reform initiatives — especially those imposed according to a top-down model — usually face difficulties at the various stages of implementation. This chapter discusses the extent of pedagogical changes in Chinese Language and Mathematics in...

    • 9 One Function, Two Systems Changing Assessment in Hong Kong’s Primary Schools
      (pp. 195-216)
      Paul Morris, Mun-ling Lo, Pui-man Chik and Ka-ki Chan

      At an early stage after the introduction and adoption of the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC), it became clear that the Target Oriented Assessment (TOA) constituted the major concern in schools and a barrier to change. TOA is described as an integral part of TOC, ‘designed to promote holistic learning in pupils and align teaching, learning and assessment more closely with the current and future demands of society’ (Co-ordination Committee on Evaluation of the Target Oriented Curriculum Assessment Mechanism for Key Stages One and Two 1995, p. 1). In this chapter, we briefly examine how schools operationalized TOA and then explore,...

    • 10 Catering for Diversity
      (pp. 217-242)
      Mun-ling Lo, Paul Morris and Mary Man-wai Che

      One of the distinctive features of the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC), which has received broad public support, is its promotion of the necessity for schools to cater for the diverse needs of and individual differences among pupils. The policy rationale for the TOC initiative, as set out in Education Commission Report No. 4 (Education Commission 1990), states that to enable teachers to use the proposed framework, it would be necessary ‘to elaborate organisational and methodological guidelines to help teachers to cater for pupils of different levels of ability and achievement’ (p. 78). Our research highlights the difficulties, at both the...

  10. Part Four Conclusion

    • 11 Improving Schools in Hong Kong Lessons from the Past
      (pp. 245-262)
      Paul Morris, Mun-ling Lo and Bob Adamson

      This book has explored the impact of a systemic curriculum reform on schools, teachers and classrooms in Hong Kong. We have located our analysis in the international literature that relates to innovation and change, and our audience, so far, has primarily been our peers who are involved with analysing educational reforms. However, for two reasons, it would be unwise if we were to leave as implicit the lessons that could specifically be learnt in Hong Kong from the case of the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC). Firstly, at this juncture of Hong Kong’s history, educational reform generally and curriculum reform specifically...

    • 12 Issues in Evaluating a Large-scale Curriculum Reform
      (pp. 263-276)
      Ka-ki Chan

      The purpose of this chapter is to explore issues relating to the evaluation of a large-scale curriculum reform and their solutions, based on a four-year study, the Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) Evaluation Project in Hong Kong. The project involved the interaction among applied research (evaluation) that originated in academic institutions, the complex features of the reform, and the role of the government as the proponent of the reform. Three types of issues emerged and are analysed in this chapter, namely, the methodological, the professional and the political. It is argued that a constant process of feedback and adjustment is a...

  11. Afterword The Lived Curriculum
    (pp. 277-292)
    Ference Marton

    Paul Morris introduced Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) into my life a few days before Christmas 1997 when I stopped in Hong Kong briefly on my way home to Sweden from Australia, to discuss with him and Professor Amy Tsui what I was going to do as Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong during the following academic year.

    TOC seemed to me to be a curriculum reform with a strong pedagogical emphasis, and yet Paul Morris was not very much into examining the soundness of the pedagogical principles. As a naïve, curricularly innocent Educational Psychologist, I found this baffling....

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-304)
  13. Index
    (pp. 305-316)