EDITOR'S NOTEHong Kong's introduction of a 3-3-4 academic structure will see the city's universities rolling out new four-year university curricula from next year. To ensure a smooth transition, many of the eight tertiary institutions began preparations long before the new six-year secondary and four-year university system was approved in 2009. This second article in our series on the 3-3-4 education reform focuses on Lingnan University's preparations and vision.
Lingnan University prides itself on being a leader in the development of education in Hong Kong. It was the first local tertiary institution to introduce the concept of service learning to students, five years ago.
"Service learning is more than just encouraging students to participate in community service," says Matthew Mo , director of the university's institutional advancement and public affairs office. "We want them to apply what they learn academically and use that knowledge to develop and implement projects and services to benefit the community."
Lingnan aims to become an internationally recognised liberal arts university with Hong Kong characteristics, and Mo believes the 3-3-4 academic reform provides a great opportunity for it to expand its existing programmes and further enhance its liberal arts profile.
"The new curriculum represents a valuable opportunity to take liberal arts education in Hong Kong to the next level. With a longer period of study, students will benefit from a much broader curriculum with wider choices of subjects as well as more out-of-classroom enrichment programmes," says Professor Chan Yuk-shee, president of Lingnan University.
Besides promoting civic engagement under the expanded four-year curriculum that starts from the 2012-13 academic year, Lingnan will be the first local tertiary institution to develop an "academic advising system" to track students' performance in order to provide tailor-made counselling services, says Mo.
"The assessment will look at both academic and non-academic activities in order to get a complete picture. We want to understand the needs of each student before we offer advice and assistance," he adds.
Mo stresses that by undertaking this daunting task, the university has again demonstrated its commitment to providing the individual care and attention that every student needs and deserves. That extra year of university is "a real blessing", he says.
"It takes a year-one student about six months to adapt and if he or she goes on an exchange programme, another six months will be gone. The new system means we don't have to cram everything into three years."
Under the new four-year curriculum, students will need 120 credits to graduate, of which 33 credits are required from the core curriculum, 18 from languages, and the remainder from major disciplines and free electives. Lingnan began planning its core curriculum in early 2006. The total undergraduate intake in the 2012-13 academic year will be 1,106 students, says Mo.
The core curriculum will be integrated with the major disciplines throughout the four years of study to ensure continuity between core subjects and majors. It aims to help students understand their living environment and broaden their international perspective by studying world history and civilisations. It will also focus on developing their creativity and their understanding of values and cultures.
"We hope to broaden their horizons, hone their interpersonal skills and help them develop a logical and critical mindset as well as other skills to adapt to the changing world," says Mo, adding that this kind of broad and balanced range of subjects will enable students to become true international citizens of tomorrow.