Schools of thought
Few decisions of the new SAR government are likely to receive a warmer welcome than the news that there will be no political interference in the education system.
One of people's main concerns revolves around the future facing their children and what implications the change of sovereignty holds for those who are just beginning their schooling. Misgivings surfaced in March when Foreign Minister Qian Qichen claimed that the contents of some textbooks did not accord with 'history or reality', and decreed that they should be revised.
Worries that Beijing would impose political correctness on teaching were increased in May when a circular issued to heads of secondary and primary schools advised that students be 'imparted with updated and accurate information in the light of the change of sovereignty'. The circular alarmed many teachers who saw in it the possibility of some future challenge to their autonomy.
Now we have clear assurances from the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Joseph Wong Wing-ping, that the changes referred to simply record the SAR status and there will be no re-writing of history or censorship of the curriculum.
The Government has not previously imposed controls on the education system and it would cause grave alarm if there was an attempt to do so now. Schools are not political nurseries and too much emphasis on 'patriotic education' may suggest to parents that a process of indoctrination is under way.
The word education comes from a Latin root meaning 'to lead out', not to put in. In all subjects, children should be given the facts and taught the powers of reasoning which will lead them to ask questions and to form their own opinions.