Hong Kong: Understanding liberal studies in Hong Kong: Vehicle for civic education and its controversies


  • Bun Koon Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg




Hong Kong, civic education, curriculum reform, critical thinking, youth activism



  • Civic education in Hong Kong has never had the status of an independent subject in the educational system. It has always been fragmented as a cross-curriculum theme.
  • The historical developments of civic education curriculum can be summarized as follows: depoliticization for the most time under the British colonial government; politicization from the mid-1980s to 1997; and re-depoliticization after the sovereignty transfer in 1997.
  • Liberal Studies, containing elements of citizenship and political knowledge, was reintroduced in 2009 as a core subject and had been considered a vehicle subject for civic education.
  • The subject was compulsory in all senior secondary schools and in the university entrance examination.
  • Against the backdrop of mounting criticisms and allegations that Liberal Studies had caused youth activism in Hong Kong, the government completely reconstructed the subject in 2021.

Purpose: This country report aims to give an overview of civic education in Hong Kong as well as Liberal Studies, and to discern the reasons behind the reforms of the subject.

Approach: The analysis is based on government documents related to the subject’s curriculum and assessment, press releases and secondary sources. Regarding the controversies, it draws on numerous studies conducted by educators and scholars in Hong Kong.

Findings: The main finding is that there is no empirical evidence supporting the causal relationship between the subject and youth activism. It seems that the drastic reforms to Liberal Studies curriculum and assessment aim to further cultivate an uncritical national identity in the post-colonial Hong Kong.

Author Biography

Bun Koon, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Bun Koon is a research associate at the Institute of Political Science, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. He completed his undergraduate study at City University of Hong Kong and Master’s degree at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. His research interests include academic freedom and education reforms in China and Hong Kong. Since September 2021, he has worked in the research project “Academic Freedom in the People’s Republic of China”, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


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How to Cite

Koon, B. (2022). Hong Kong: Understanding liberal studies in Hong Kong: Vehicle for civic education and its controversies . JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 21(4). https://doi.org/10.11576/jsse-5410



Country Report