National education in Hong Kong

National education course should have nothing to do with indoctrination

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am

There has been a great deal of debate about implementation of a national education course in our schools.

Sceptics have argued that such a subject could become one-sided, with an attempt made to implant in students knowledge and attitudes that take a perspective that favours the central government.

Some teachers have said that national education is not needed as a separate subject and can be adequately dealt with as part of the existing Chinese history curriculum.

Other teachers fear they will lose the freedom of speech they currently enjoy within the Hong Kong education system, because they would be discouraged from discussing attitudes critical of the leadership in Beijing.

I believe that Chinese citizenship is more than a subject. If it can be taught well and tailored to local needs, its skills and values will lead to a balanced and holistic development of our national identity.

National education is about enabling people to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for their own lives and communities. Chinese citizenship education is an important opportunity for us to explore students' social and political views about the country. It is not about trying to fit everyone into the same mould and to produce the same standard, or about creating the so-called 'model' or 'good' citizen from a government perspective. Liberal studies has limitations in this regard as it takes a more analytical, macro and rational perspective. In Britain 'citizenship' is even an elective subject. On the mainland and in the United States, it is compulsory. Compulsory national education is needed in Hong Kong.

For local university graduates or even school leavers, knowing Putonghua and having a proper knowledge of China's culture, politics and business environment is an advantage in the job market. In schools there is a lack of education about contemporary China.

I am not denying the value of Chinese history as a subject, but it fails to provide the whole picture. Students also need to understand modern Chinese culture, that is, the arts, mass media, economics, politics and laws. Students should be trained to read simplified Chinese and speak Putonghua. The new subject could be included in the junior form curriculum or as an elective in senior form.

Stefan Lam Kit-yung, Tuen Mun