National education shunned by publishers
Dennis Chong and Helen Yu
Big textbook publishers are shunning the new national education curriculum, while a small player who dived into the market has found few buyers amid controversy over the subject.
Some Hong Kong primary schools will start teaching national education - a subject the government says will engender national pride but which critics deride as brainwashing - when the new school year begins in September. The first lot of secondary schools start it next year.
'Normally, we would need two years [of preparation time]. But the subject was decided in April and the introduction is in September,' said Ben Mak, deputy regional director of Oxford University Press (China).
Even the likely demand for when the subject becomes compulsory at primary level in 2015 and in secondary schools in 2016 has not tempted publishers.
'The curriculum is so broad,' Mak said, adding that it was unclear how much class time would be devoted to national education, making it hard to devise materials.
Shek Kwok-kei of Pilot Publishing said his company had spent the past year putting together a set of national education textbooks for secondary schools, but schools felt it was too early to buy them. 'I want to be a pioneer but it seems schools don't know how the game will be played,' he said, adding that to his understanding, none of the mainstream publishers had plans to enter the market yet.
Pupils, teachers and parents plan a huge protest against national education on Sunday, while 1,000 opponents of the plan yesterday published an advertisement in three newspapers calling for a rethink.
The Education Bureau said it was reviewing subsidies to two bodies, the National Education Services Centre and the National Education Centre, both led by Yeung Yiu-chung, a Beijing loyalist and president of the Federation of Education Workers.
The organisations were granted HK$72 million over six years, but are under fire for producing booklets arguing one-party rule is more selfless than multiparty democracy. A bureau spokesman said the two bodies had received no funding since their HK$12 million-per-year service contracts expired last month.
Shek, a deputy to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said his books described the Cultural Revolution as a disaster and dedicated a chapter to corruption. Although there was no mention of the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown, he said he did not hide any topic.
Education sector legislator Cheung Man-kwong said the disclosure that authorities were funding one-sided materials showed that the subject was a brainwashing tool. He urged the government to scrap it.