National education in Hong Kong

National education course revised

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2012, 12:00am

All public primary schools will start teaching a controversial course in moral and national education in 2015 that officials say has been modified greatly in response to concerns about its potential for indoctrination.

Public secondary schools will follow in 2016.

The subject, which might include topics such as understanding the mainland's constitution, would take up no more than 5 per cent of class time, the Education Bureau said.

The bureau sought to reassure critics that the revised curriculum - which does not feature landmark political events such as the June 4 Tiananmen incident - would not dictate what to learn.

The curriculum would focus instead on developing critical thinking, it said.

However, teachers responsible for the subject would be sent to the mainland for seminars, it said.

The head of a government-appointed taskforce that drafted the syllabus, Professor Lee Chack-fan, said they had modified it in response to public demand.

'There won't be one-sided praise [about the mainland],' Lee said.

The bureau announced its revised curriculum guide yesterday after a four-month consultation last year, amid concerns over whether the subject would add to the burden of teachers and brainwash pupils with knowledge and attitudes that favoured the central government. Originally, the subject would have been introduced in primary schools this September and in secondary schools in 2013.

Each school will receive a one-off subsidy to the tune of HK$500,000.

Among suggested topics are learning about central government bodies and the etiquette for a national flag-raising ceremony. Public exams would not be held for the subject.

Bureau principal assistant secretary Dr Cheung Kwok-wah said political events such as the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen incident were not listed, so as to give teachers flexibility to choose what to teach.

But Dr Leung Yan-wing, an associate professor at the Institute of Education, said officials should not steer clear of political discussions. 'If you need to instil a sense of belonging among Hongkongers, you cannot avoid talking about politics,' he said.

Federation of Education Workers vice-chairman Wu Siu-wai said the lack of specific instructions for the syllabus might pose a problem for less experienced teachers trying to compile learning materials.

Cheung said the bureau would upload suggested classroom materials online for teachers' reference.

The bureau had briefed chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying before the announcement, he said. 'It was an appropriate thing to do since this is a topic of public concern.' He said Leung did not show any opposition to the revised curriculum.

The bureau declined to reveal how many objections to the subject it received during the consultation.