National education in Hong Kong

Would compulsory 'Moral and National Education' lessons help strengthen students' national identity?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 12:00am

Elise Choi, 16, Sai Kung Sung Tsun Catholic School

National identity is all about a person's sense of belonging to their home country - and sharing feelings with one another. Although some critics say such lessons could turn into political brainwashing, they will help strengthen our national identity. As Chinese, we must contribute to our homeland; we need to learn more about it, and care about it.

There are three stages to these lessons. The first is perception. Students will learn about China by singing the national anthem, attending flag-raising ceremonies, appreciating Chinese culture and customs and studying current affairs. As a result, they will have a better understanding of the country.

The second step is emotion. Students will learn to care more about the mainland. For instance, when there is an earthquake, they will feel truly involved - as if they experienced the tragedy in person. During the Sichuan quake, a lot of people - including hundreds of students - died when buildings collapsed. This was blamed on poor construction. With national education, we will be determined to make China a better place.

On the other hand, local students can rejoice with their compatriots on the mainland when there is good news. For example, if China sends a man to the moon one day, they will feel proud and happy.

The third step is action. We will be quick to act - offer support, take on responsibilities and make donations to China.

I believe moral and national education lessons should be taught as soon as possible.

Matthew Murchie, 17, St Joseph's College

The Chief Executive's desire to strengthen our youth's sense of national identity may have been well-intentioned. However, it is wrong to believe that this could be achieved through the implementation of compulsory classes.

A healthy sense of national identity has its roots in national culture - the music, literature, cuisine, philosophies and citizens' habits. It is not something that can be learned in in a classroom, like science, language or even the arts. Instead, it takes actual exposure to the ways of life of a community to help enhance people's sense of national identity.

A young person's sense of national identity could, for example, be enriched through community service. Working alongside the elderly - listening to stories about their lives - can be a better way of discovering one's heritage than studying local history for an exam.

Voluntary work would expose students to the lives of citizens from different backgrounds, and help them learn more about our economy.

Teachers and students should be proud of Hong Kong's long history of educating its children. We have an excellent education system. But not every problem facing Hong Kong's youth can be solved simply by throwing textbooks at it.

Yes, books can help us boost our knowledge of a culture. But strengthening our sense of national identity comes from the appreciation and practice of that culture - something that simply cannot be acquired in the classroom.