More schools delay national studies
More school-sponsoring bodies have decided not to implement the controversial national education curriculum this September, but they say they are taking advantage of the government's own timetable, not dragging their feet.
The Methodist Church, Catholic diocese, Buddhist Association and Tung Wah, which together operate 87 primary schools, have joined groups planning to delay implementation of the programme until at least next year.
Their schedule, the school sponsors say, conforms with the government's plan for a three-year adjustment period before mandatory implementation of the curriculum in the 2015-16 school year.
Nonetheless, the groups say their lesson plans already include many aspects of the education plan, which covers everything from character development to more thorny issues about the central government.
'Eight years ago, we started a programme called life education where we taught our kids in a weekly course about themselves, their families, society, country and the world,' said Reverend Paul Kan Kei-pui of the Methodists. 'This is all very similar to the government's curriculum.'
The church, which operates 11 primary schools in the city, plans to implement the full curriculum next year. 'We will review the materials, and also give our frontline staff a chance to have a trial period in teaching the material,' Kan said. 'There's no rush, we have until 2015.'
The Catholic diocese, which operates 56 primary schools, will wait until the 2014-15 school year to implement the curriculum, as an internal task force studies how it overlaps with the current curriculum, said Dominic Chu Fu-yau, an assistant to the episcopal delegate for education at the Catholic Education Office.
Tung Wah, which operates 13 primary schools, and the Buddhist Association, with seven, also say they will continue to offer their own moral and civic education programmes while delaying implementation of the full curriculum. They join the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church diocese, which have already announced plans to delay.
The curriculum has come under fire from some pupils, educators and democracy advocates, who are concerned it may be biased towards the government in Beijing and infringe on Hong Kong's educational independence. Such fears were stoked anew this month when it was revealed that new government-funded teaching materials said multiparty politics could 'victimise' people while concentrated political power created a 'selfless' government and stable society.
Chu, of the Catholics, said public perception of the curriculum was distorted. 'Everyone seems to be focusing on a fifth of the programme, when in fact the section on national education is only a minuscule part of all the material, which also includes moral education,' Chu said.
A spokeswoman from the Education Bureau welcomed sponsoring bodies to implement the programme 'in their own preferred way'.
Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU), said he expected more primary schools would 'wait and see what other schools are doing in this turbulent time'. He said the government should consult the public again.
Opponents of the curriculum, including the PTU, cited Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim's recent trip to Beijing as further evidence of the central government's political interest in Hong Kong's education policy. An Education Bureau spokeswoman said Ng's discussions in Beijing 'touched on' the national education materials recently circulated among teachers.
Signatures against the plan to implement the national studies curriculum collected by parent activist Eva Chan Sik-chee