For the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), the advent of four-year undergraduate courses in 2012 is an exciting opportunity. Founded in 1956, and achieving university status in 1994, the institution was established with the aim of promoting "Whole Person Education". It is an objective that dovetails perfectly with the city's new 3-3-4 academic system.
Under the new curriculum, students at HKBU will need 128 credits to graduate, including at least 60 in their chosen major. Others will come from electives, such as minor courses or a double major, as well as a compulsory General Education (GE) requirement in which students need to complete at least 38 units.
Under the new GE programme, all first-degree students have to study Public Speaking (English and Putonghua), History and Civilisation, Values and Meaning of Life, Numeracy and Physical Education.
"The additional year of undergraduate education will allow us to enhance students' knowledge in these areas, and give them more time for international exchanges and internships," says Professor Franklin Luk, HKBU vice-president for academic affairs.
He believes the extra year in university will give the faculty more time to help students focus on the development of their whole personality.
An integral part of the GE programme is the distribution requirements to expand the scope of learning by encouraging students to pursue areas that are outside their major discipline.
Luk says knowledge in a single discipline is no longer enough to meet the challenges of a highly globalised world. The university has designed the new curriculum to determine where students can best contribute their unique talents within the complex and ever-changing international community.
This will be achieved in part by providing more opportunities for students to broaden their knowledge, inspire creativity, and enrich their learning experience through the Whole Person Education. Undergraduates will be encouraged to develop additional service and leadership interests outside the classroom through participation in both extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.
The intended learning outcomes from the GE courses include the ability to communicate effectively as speakers and writers in both English and Chinese, access and manage complex information using technologically appropriate means, apply mathematical reasoning to address problems in everyday life and live an active and healthy lifestyle.
They should also be capable of using historical and cultural perspectives to gain insight into contemporary issues and apply various value systems in decision-making.
Overall, the new curriculum aims to enhance students' academic and intellectual capacity, encourage cross-disciplinary studies, sharpen core competencies, broaden students' vision, and prepare them for the world of work and the challenge of life-long learning in the 21st century, Luk explains.
Graduates of HKBU are expected to be responsible citizens with an international perspective and a sense of ethics, he adds.
By achieving all this, the university hopes to set new standards in realising the vision of the Whole Person Education that was established by its founding fathers more than half a century ago.
Luk says the university is prepared for the advent of a new era of education and will be able to fill up 100 new teaching positions before rolling out its new four-year curriculum next year.