Lam says national lessons A must
The government is standing firm on the introduction of national education in primary school classrooms in September, despite a storm of controversy.
Top officials yesterday lined up to back the plan, with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor saying withdrawing the subject just two months before it is due to be taught for the first time would disappoint many.
Opponents of the curriculum, which the government says will help engender a sense of national pride, argue that it will be a tool for brainwashing and are planning to protest on Sunday.
However, Lam said: 'We should trust our headmasters and teachers have the ability to teach students critical thinking and to tell what is right and what is wrong. There is no question teachers would help brainwash the students. It is unfair to our teachers and educators.'
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim wrote on his blog yesterday that the government had already responded to public concerns by not making the subject compulsory from this year. Instead, it will become compulsory in primary schools in 2015 and secondary schools in 2016.
'Our proposal this May to have a three-year preparation period was a response to the public. The [Education] Bureau hopes parents [will] not worry,' he wrote.
The man who designed the curriculum, Professor Lee Chack-fan of the University of Hong Kong, was also dismissive of the brainwashing claims.
'I would tell dear parents there is no chance for brainwashing. Why don't they take a wait-and-see approach before jumping to a conclusion,' he said.
Controversy has been stirred in part by the revelation that two groups led by a prominent Beijing-loyalist educator produced a booklet for use in classrooms that has been condemned as hopelessly biased.
A group of Baptist University academics yesterday criticised their university's involvement in the booklet, The China Model, which was pilloried for arguing that one-party rule led to 'selfless' government. The booklet was edited by the university's Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies.
Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, chairman of the Civic Party and an associate professor in political science at the university, said: 'If we need to instil a sense of belonging as Chinese, we do not need to have a national education subject. We only need a Chinese history subject.
'Even in colonial times, we had Chinese history, but we don't have it now. This is completely ridiculous.'
Fellow Baptist University academic To Yiu-ming said the university's management should explain its decision to participate in the project.
In a statement, the university said it respected academic freedom and that scholars had the right to decide on the content of their publications.
Organisers of Sunday's protest expect some 3,000 parents and pupils to take part in the march to government headquarters in Admiralty.