National lessons won't skirt the sensitive issues
Thomas Chan and Jennifer Cheng
National education with no flinching from sensitive subjects - that is what one primary school principal has promised to introduce in his classes this autumn.
Leung Kee-cheong, headmaster of the Fresh Fish Traders' School, waded into the national education controversy in an interview on Thursday by saying: 'Teachers will not shy away from any sensitive political incidents. We'll tell the students that the June 4 bloodshed in 1989 was a patriotic movement, and the government handled it improperly.'
The school, in Tai Kok Tsui, will not use teachers' guide The China Model, which has been sharply criticised by many teachers and parents in Hong Kong as excessively biased towards Beijing.
Teachers would use other resources to address the sensitive module dealing with contemporary China, Leung said. They will also teach the four other modules of national education, which include moral education and Chinese geography.
The Hong Kong National Services Centre published The China Model, which fails to mention major events such as the June 4, 1989, crackdown in Tiananmen Square.
Leung called the booklet a 'negative example'. The school, he said, would compile materials from other textbooks. The time spent gathering material will delay its launch until October. 'At this stage, we will mainly present factual knowledge to students,' he said. It will use 80 per cent of the HK$530,000 government subsidy to hire a new teacher and the rest to prepare teaching materials.
Many teachers and parents have been alarmed by the Education Bureau's call for students' progress to be graded. Parents say it is ridiculous to grade students' feelings because some will not be moved by the sight of the Chinese flag being raised.
Leung said worksheets, instead of tests, would be used and their grades would not be affected.
'We'll only hand out worksheets to see how well the students understand the subject,' he said.
The Tai Kok Tsui school, which serves mainly grass-roots students, will be well ahead of the curve in introducing the subject. Various school-sponsoring bodies have said they will not introduce the curriculum this year. National education is due to become compulsory in primary schools in 2015 and secondary schools in 2016.
Early introduction of national education at his school, Leung said, was a 'remedy' for education reforms he views as mistaken. 'A series of reforms in recent decades has made students feel distant from their country. Chinese history is now an elective subject in our high school curriculum,' he said.
The Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers Wong Cho Bau School - a subsidised primary and secondary institution in Tung Chung - will introduce the subject this year.
Principal Leung Siu-tong said it would be 'knowledge-based' - focusing on learning the facts of historical events and current affairs. 'We want to give pupils an opportunity to learn about their country, such as the National People's Congress and how the central government works.'
Primary pupils from his school took part in yesterday's welcoming ceremony at Chek Lap Kok airport for three Chinese astronauts making a four-day visit to Hong Kong. 'These up-close and personal experiences with famous figures can stir up an interest in learning more about China,' Leung said.