The implementation of curriculum change in moral education in secondary schools in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong the body responsible for administration of schools and curriculum affairs is the Education Department. In 1981, this body issued the 'General Guidelines on Moral Education in Schools'. At a time when most schools did not have any form of planned or systematic approach to moral education, this was a milestone in the history ofcurriculum development in the Territory. In another respect these Guidelines revolutionalised curriculum change in the Territory in that school-centred strategy was adopted as opposed to the central control traditionally maintained by the central agency, i.e. the Education Department. This study aims at finding out how administrators and teachers in secondary schools responded to the curriculum change, how they implemented it and the results of the change. Three secondary schools with different backgrounds were studied in great depth using ethnographic research methods. Curriculum leaders and teachers of another eight schools were interviewed with a view to refining the propositions developed from these in-depth multi-site case studies. Moral education had, indeed been institutionalised in all the schools studied but most of them did not follow the recommendations ofthe central agency. The implemented curriculum was characterised by content directed towards students' disciplinary problems, a tendency to pass on a set of values to the students, ineffective use ofpupil-centred teaching methods and audio-visual aids, and neglect of evaluation. The schools and teachers did not receive adequate support and resources from the central agency to implement this curriculum change. The curriculum users therefore had to scale down the recommended change to manageable proportions according to their own interpretation and the demands of their environment. For example, there was conscious avoidance of the integrated approach recommended in the Guidelines. In making curriculum decisions, school personnel tend to make a 'practical' stance. They are strongly influenced by the 'culture of teaching'. The over-riding importance of public examination in the Hong Kong system, inevitably lowers the status of moral education in the eyes of the school personnel. A strong subject identity, another characteristic of the teaching culture, clouds teachers' perception oftheir professional responsibility. The emphasis on privacy and teachers' autonomy in the classroom, over-concern for disciplinary problems all affect the implementation of curriculum change in moral education. This study reveals the implementation problems that are present when a school-centred strategy is adopted without adequate support and resources to back it up. It is a lesson which curriculum developers in Hong Kong should take seriously in future developments.