Schools pan 'national education'
An elite-schools association is among more than a dozen groups opposing the introduction of moral and national education as a compulsory school subject.
The Grant Schools Council, representing 22 top schools, urged the government to drop the plan because the proposed curriculum was too heavily focused on the nation instead of on personal and family development.
'In Chinese wisdom, one should talk about cultivating oneself and bringing order to family before governing the country,' council representative John Tan, principal of Wah Yan College, told legislators. 'The proposed subject is imbalanced.'
Apart from Wah Yan College, the council also includes schools such as Diocesan Boys' School, La Salle College, St Joseph's College and St Paul's College.
A number of religious and teachers' groups also opposed the plan at a special Legislative Council meeting. They accused the authorities, which plan to start the subject in primary schools next year and secondary schools in 2013, of bulldozing through an unpopular subject. A majority of the 48 speakers at the meeting opposed introduction of the subject, for which a four-month consultation began in May.
Pan-democrats accuse the government of introducing the new subject in response to demands from Beijing as a means of 'brainwashing' the next generation.
Legislator Cheung Man-kwong, a democrat who represents the education sector, said the government should withdraw the subject in the face of such strong opposition.
Under the proposal, schools would have to devote up to 50 hours of a school year, or about two lessons a week, to the new subject. No exams would be required but students would be expected to evaluate each other on whether they are willing to be Chinese, proud of the country's development and prepared to pay respect to the flag and anthem.
Officials later said that national education would not necessarily be an independent subject and that related content could be taught in civic education and other related subjects.
But pan-democrats say national education would inevitably be one-sided in favour of the Communist Party.
Lai Ming-chak, external vice-president of the students' union at Chinese University, said the proposed curriculum was one-sided.
'The government is focusing on China after 1949 and 1978. How can we be convinced that this is the China we love?' he asked. 'National education is not only about appreciating the national anthem and the flag,' he said.
Leung Siu-tong, chairman of Hong Kong Aided Primary School Heads Association, said the association supported the subject but added it should start by phases in primary schools instead of being introduced in one go next year.
Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on said the government was willing to listen to the public's views during the consultation. But he refused to say whether it was possible for the subject to be dropped.
During the meeting, Chen's speech was interrupted by legislator Wong Yuk-man, who accused him of reading from an official document instead of answering queries from concern groups and legislators.
Wong's interruption prompted Starry Lee Wai-king, who chaired the special meeting yesterday, to suspend the meeting for a brief period.