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Changes in the way history is taught in Hong Kong are being inspired by researchers at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Until recently, school students learnt mostly Chinese dynastic history.
In 1998, the Education Department introduced a new curriculum, giving a framework for teachers to focus specifically on Hong Kong history, culture and society. One problem said Assistant Professor Dr Liu Tik-sang at HKUST’s Humanities Division, has been that teachers were left wanting for teaching material. Another need was a teaching methodology to help enrich the learning experience for students.
A resident of Tai O tells her story (right); an archeological dig near Sai Kung (far right)

“We wanted to show there are methods other than teaching and learning from a book,” added Dr Liu. The researchers drew together a committee representing a broad range of the academic and educational institutions and gathered advice on key locations and events representing Hong Kong history.
More than 50 teachers took part in a certificate course of conferences, public lectures, fieldtrips, and teaching demonstrations to flesh out teaching material and methods. Three printed volumes from the research have been distributed to Hong Kong schools inspiring history teachers to adopt the new classroom approach.
To make the subject more interesting to students, said Dr Liu, teachers were shown how to use learning games, audio-visual material, and they were encouraged to take their students on field trips. Various historical sites, both urban and rural, were suggested.
Tai O on Lantau Island at the mouth of the Pearl River, for example, was Hong Kong’s main business area at one time, said Dr Liu. Half way between Hong Kong and Macau, it was ideally located for maritime trade. It was, and still is today, a fishing and farming community.
Students are encouraged to visit the village and talk to inhabitants to get a better sense of history. Other recommended fieldtrip locations include an area from Central to Western for insights into Hong Kong’s early colonial history and Chinese business, Lung Yeuk Tau in the northern New Territories as an example of an ancestral lineage community, and Sai Kung to Kowloon City for its history of early settlers and wartime guerrilla activities.
The Jiao Festival, still held in villages every 10 years to cleanse the physical and spiritual world, is recommended as an illustration of cultural history. Co-PI Dr Chi-cheung Choi said: “We set out to show that history is not just a vague, abstract idea. Through active rather than passive learning, it can be very exciting and students will learn better.”

Principal Investigators
Dr Tik-sang Liu:hmtsliu@ust.hk
Dr Siu-woo Cheung:
Dr Chi-cheung Choi: