Union protests at 'hidden' subsidy to Beijing loyalists

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am


Education chiefs have been questioned over a subsidy granted to a Beijing-loyalist group which used the money to publish a set of biased teaching materials on national education that have been rejected even by the education minister.

The Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) said the Education Bureau was giving money to Beijing loyalists to make teaching materials supportive of the Communist Party while other groups did not even know the money was available. 'We have never known that there is such funding to make teaching materials,' PTU leader Fung Wai-wah said.

The union was commenting after it emerged that the National Education Services Centre, a company led by leftist Yeung Yiu-chung, printed materials praising one-party rule that had recently been sent to some public schools. Pupils were told that multi-party politics could 'victimise' people while concentrated political power could create 'selfless' government that brought stability.

The materials also stated that the 2008 scandal over milk adulterated with melamine created bad impressions of companies that were involved, without detailing problems with mainland regulatory regimes.

New Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said on a radio programme yesterday that the materials were 'problematic' and should not be used.

Newspaper reports said the centre - whose directors include Legislative Council president and leftist leader Tsang Yok-sing, unionist Cheng Yiu-tong and Federation of Education Workers leader Wong Kwan-yu - received millions of dollars in subsidies in recent years.

The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Education Bureau confirmed that subsidies had been given but did not immediately give details.

Fung meanwhile renewed calls to scrap the national-education curriculum, which the Hong Kong government has said is designed to give students 'multi-faceted knowledge' about the nation. The PTU leader said the subject should not focus on nationalism, an outdated concept in the globalised world, and should be renamed 'civic education'.

He said that to avoid perceptions national education was aimed at indoctrination, the government must set up an open platform for teaching professionals and scholars to draft textbooks and teaching materials.

He also urged the government to explain why the existence of a channel to get financing to produce the subject materials had never been publicised.

The government recently announced that all public primary schools must start teaching national education by 2015. Secondary schools must do so by 2016.

Some HK$500 million was earmarked for schools to prepare for the subject. It means each school can get a one-off amount of more than HK$500,000.

This year, the government also decided to stop providing annual funds of HK$320,000 per school for the new liberal studies curriculum.

Another PTU leader, Wong Hak-lim, said that from the funding patterns it was easy to draw a conclusion that introducing national education was the most important policy objective. 'It is inevitably a political endeavour,' he said.