New General Education Programme

Language and Communication
Science and Information Technology
Society and Culture

General Education (GE) is defined as "that part of a curriculum that is shared by ALL students (regardless their original major/profession), provides broad exposure to multiple disciplines, and forms the basis for developing important intellectual and civil capabilities" (Spencer Benson, 2009). GE is designed to achieve more than just broadening students' knowledge. It is learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change.

University education is more than subject knowledge teaching or career training. GE is a major part of liberal art education or whole-person education (social, personal, academic, experiential integration). General education comprises of both formal general education courses and informal general education activities.

Today's world is more global, knowledge-based, connected facing faster changes. Today's graduates will have several different careers after graduates, sometimes quite unrelated to their major studies in university. They therefore need to respond creatively and seize opportunities in such a fast changing economy by possessing an integrated knowledge and a diverse skill set.

In the University's 5-Year Plan (Academic Year 2008/09 to 2012/13): "…a good proportion of general education components will be included in the total number of credits so as to achieve the goal of providing an all-rounded education to students at UM". In fact, universities in North America, Hong Kong and Taiwan emphasize much on formal general education courses as they usually constitute over 35% of the whole undergraduate curriculum. Therefore, the formal GE course requirement is the centerpiece of our new proposed curriculum.

Our proposed model aims to embrace this direction for achieving our education missions mentioned previously. It provides the key common learning experience for all UM undergraduate students. GE programmes, if designed and implemented well, are equally as important as studies in the major programmes.

There are several major models of GE in existence. Regardless their source, modern GE should address the skills, knowledge and values of 21st century life-long learners. They should cover some basic literacy such as communication, informational, science, technology, cultural, historical, and social.

There is no one single model or solution, each institution has to link GE with its missions. Each needs to search its own character of GE. However, it is useful to make reference to some important studies and experience overseas. Eight categories of general education were identified by the Report of the Task Force on General Education, Harvard University (2007):

1. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding
Culture and Belief
Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning
Ethical/Moral Reasoning
Science of Living Systems
Science of the Physical Universe
Societies of the World
United States in the World

One key feature of this model is the focus on the commonality of human experiences, issues that are of prime importance to human beings, and the core intellectual skills and values that all undergraduates we believe should acquire. Following and modified from the Harvard model, the UM general education programme is proposed as follows:

General Education Theme/Area No. of credits General Education Courses Year/Level
I. Language and Communication
1. English Language* 6
  • English II: Interaction and Study Skills 3 & 4
  • English III: Academic English 1 & 2
  • English IV: Academic English 3 & 4
  • Critical Reading and Writing
  • Experiencing Literature In English
Year 1 to Year 2
2. Chinese / Foreign Language*# 3
  • Chinese Languages and Chinese Communities
  • Chinese Language and Chinese Literature
  • Chinese for Non-Native Speakers I
  • Chinese for Non-Native Speakers II
  • Portuguese Language I – Introductory Portuguese
Year 1
3. Communication 3
  • Communicating in a Global Society
Year 3 to Year 4
II. Science and Information Technology
4. Mathematics / Quantitative Reasoning*# 3
  • Mathematics and Statistics for Everyday Life
  • Applications of Mathematics in Today's World
Year 1 to Year 2
5. Information Technology and Knowledge Society*# 3
  • Computing in Modern Society
  • Contemporary Information Systems for Organizations
  • Information Security and Privacy
  • Web Technology and Life
Year 1 to Year 2
6. Physical Science and the World# 3
  • Exploring the Earth
  • Chemistry and Modern Society
  • Electricity and Life
  • Physical Science – To know the natural laws around us
Any Year
7. Life Science, Health and the Human Condition# 3
  • Wonders in Life Science and Health: Personal Health & Sustainability
  • Wonders in Life Science and Health: Biomedical Science
  • Wonders in Life Science and Health: Environmental Biology
  • Wonders in Life Science and Health: Health Psychology
Year 2 to Year 4
III. Society and Culture
8. World Histories and Cultures 3
  • Global Issues in History and Culture
Year 2 to Year 4
9. Macao, China and other Societies 3
  • Environment and Humanity
  • Macao in the Global Context
  • Understanding Population
Year 2 to Year 4
10. Values, Ethics and Meaning of Life 3
  • Basic Issues in Ethics
  • Cultural Values and Global Justice
  • Capitalism and Morality
  • The Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights
  • Asian Values and Moral Traditions
Year 2 to Year 4
IV. Self-Development
11. Physical Education (Pass/No Pass) 1
  • Wellness and Sport Practice
Any Year
12. Visual and Performing Arts (Pass/No Pass) 2
  • Visual and Performing Arts - Visual Art
  • Visual and Performing Arts - Drama
  • Visual and Performing Arts - Music
Year 2 to Year 4
13. University Life (Pass/No Pass) 0
  • University Life
Year 1

Students will be assigned to different levels/nature of courses depending on their prior achievements or assessment results in the respective area before enrollment.
For pre-approved programmes, these courses can be substituted by equivalent major prerequisite/foundation courses.

In our recent study of the credit requirements of over 25 major institutions around the world, we notice that a number of top institutions require students of professional programmes such as law and engineering to take university-wide general education courses comprising at least 25% of their total credits. Therefore even for professional programmes, we expect them should be benefited from similar GE requirements.

In our revised curriculum model, approved major programmes will be allowed to have more major credits and to fulfill part of the university-wide general education requirements by equivalent foundation or preparative subjects. They are expected to take at least 20 out of the 36 prescribed specific general education credit requirements. The remaining 16 would be substituted by their Year 1 and Year 2 equivalent major prerequisite/foundation/preparative courses.

For each general education theme/area, students will be allowed to choose a course from a list of courses to be offered.  These general education courses are extended throughout all 4 years.  Further, general education and distribution courses taken would not be counted towards the major or minor requirements.

The following contents, pedagogical and assessment issues should be taken into account when designing GE courses:

a. These proposed new GE themes or courses should be seen as inter-related and integrated with students' major studies. They are not simply introductory courses on a discipline.  They should be contributing to many of the undergraduate learning goals listed in the subpage "Reform Concepts and Values".
Their design should be cross-disciplinary, student-centered, learning outcome-based, inquiry-oriented, student engaging and collaborative, and related to students' life and their society.
Innovative pedagogy and assessment methods are strongly encouraged to enable interactive learning to take place. Information technology and web-based resources could be explored to supplement/integrate with traditional face-face learning.
Teaching general education is about determining the minimum common knowledge that all UM undergraduate students will possess after graduation and the enduring understandings that they will take away after classes. Focusing on major issues rather than the subject matter itself.
GE should encourage students to learn how to learn. They should expose our students to a way of thinking. They encourage students to be able to transfer skills, knowledge and values from one domain of knowledge to new areas.
For each of the 13 course areas, it can be just one course or further divided into not more than four courses. The bottom line is that all different courses under the same course area must have some common topics/elements which we expect all students learn/possess.
In order to ensure cost effectiveness and to allow some flexibility in the teaching and learning process, the size of GE classes are usually expected to be between 50 to 100 students, especially for year-1 and year-2 courses.
The GE course design is an iterative process owned by faculty members. Consultations with major stakeholders including teachers and students should be conducted.

Other Recommendations on the New Curriculum
Some of the distribution requirements (12 credits) will be tailored-made by the offering faculties/departments for non-majors (an interdisciplinary or cluster approach could be considered).
Undergraduate student should be encouraged and supported to engage in faculty research activities. Individual faculties/schools can decide on the individual Graduation Project/Thesis (3 to 6 credits) capstone requirement as an integral part of the major for the purpose of knowledge integration and application.
There would be no university restrictions on the use of the Free Electives credits but a faculty/school can impose restrictions on the free electives to be used by their major students.
Double minors or double majors are allowed and the maximum years of study will be 6 years.
The University allows students to take challenge examinations or special assessments/tests in order to waive any language and/or computing/IT courses, but they are required to take a senior substitute course.
The University would set up a standing committee to plan, co-ordinate and maintain the agreed general education components. The University should provide sufficient resources and leadership to achieve its purposes. It is also a collective corporate responsibility of the faculty.
Some professional programmes may consider to extend to a normative period of 5 years instead of asking for too many exceptions from the revised 4-year model.