Call for strike has few backers
Thomas Chan, Linda Yeung and Ada Lee
A union's call for teachers to stay away from classes in September as a protest against the national-education curriculum has gained little support from principals and school sponsoring bodies.
Last night the Professional Teachers' Union passed a resolution to mobilise teachers to boycott classes on September 3, the first day of term, if the government refuses to withdraw the subject in the new school year.
Fong King-lok, an executive committee member of the union, said it was hard to estimate how many schools would join at this stage, but the union would summon support from education bodies and school principal groups.
The subject will be introduced in primary schools at the start of the new term, despite a protest by tens of thousands of pupils, parents and teachers on Sunday.
Many schools have already decided not to introduce the subject, which the government says will engender national pride but critics fear will be used for 'brainwashing'. And principals say any form of strike will deprive children of an education.
Timothy Ha Wing-ho, education adviser to the city's Anglican Church, the Sheng Kung Hui, has reservations about a strike, saying it would be hard for parents to settle their children at a school that joined a strike. The 50 primary schools sponsored by the church will not introduce national education in September. Over a third of primary schools citywide say they will not implement the subject yet.
'All our teaching schedules have been fixed already,' Ha said. 'When school starts, we'll have meetings with principals and teachers to discuss what we are going to do about national education.'
Liu Ah-chuen, chairman of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, asked: 'What is the rationale for a strike if the subject will not be offered? A strike affects students' rights, and it is up to each school's management committee to make a decision.'
The subject will be introduced in secondary schools next year on a voluntary basis. It will be compulsory at primary level from 2015 and in secondary schools from 2016.
The chairman of the Subsidised Primary Schools Council, Sin Kim-wai, sees no need for drastic action and believes schools will enjoy flexibility in how they offer national education. He thinks it is best taught as part of civic-education classes.
'Schools have always enjoyed autonomy in implementing Education Bureau guidelines. As for the idea of a strike, we need to make sure students understand the meaning of it.'
On a radio programme yesterday, Eva Chan Sik-chee, convenor of another co-organiser of the march, the National Education Parents' Concern Group, said the turnout showed the issue had really angered people. Police said 32,000 people marched from Victoria Park to Admiralty. Organisers put the figure at 90,000.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said after the march that a body with 'broad representation' would be established to monitor the introduction of the subject.
But a member of the parents' group, So Pui-kin, dismissed the new committee as 'just a public-relations tactic ... to put out the fire'. Groups involved in the march have ruled out getting involved with the committee.
A caller to the radio station said Chinese people had an obligation to build a national identity. Otherwise, they might 'become defectors'. But Andrew Shum Wai-nam of an alliance against national education said Hongkongers had long been patriotic - as shown by the large turnouts at the annual June 4 vigil.
The estimated number of marchers at a rally against national education on Sunday, according to its organisers