English may be the language of peace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 7:34am

As a question of fairness, the government should mandate the introduction of national education in English Schools Foundation and international schools as well. Why should expatriate and westernised local children be deprived of the opportunity to learn about China, which is, after all, on everyone's lips?

Calm down, just kidding! Don't rip my heart out!

In fact, the reverse is happening. The government is about to ditch national education in local schools. First, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says there are lots of options between wholesale introduction and complete cancellation. Then his point man, or rather woman, on the issue, Anna Wu Hung-yuk, says cancelling it is an option. Less than 24 hours later, even Leung says axing the subject is under "cautious consideration".

Our officials always take a bit of time to give in, but cave they will. That is what weak governments inevitably do. The activists hoping to turn "Occupy Tamar" into a mini-Tiananmen will be sorely disappointed. Still, the ship of state is like an oil tanker, which can only turn around very slowly.

Now, here's an idea for C.Y. to clear the bad air, something I have stolen from a reader's letter today. His proposed initiative is so worthy everyone will support it, even the irate youngsters now camping outside his office and the fruity newspaper that has been goading them on. (Hey, your reporters never did call me, as claimed in your story.)

In place of national education, the government should design and launch a multi-year programme with the express mission to create a world-class English-language education for local schools on top of their Chinese-language curriculum. Targeting the entire public school system from primary to secondary, it will take pressure off the ESF and international schools with their long waiting lists. Bosses will get local graduates fluent in the international lingua franca, boosting our competitiveness as a business hub. This is a goal that the central government can readily approve.

Most Hong Kong people are pragmatic, an Executive Council member once told me; they know C.Y. must work with Beijing. But they also expect him to stand up for them on core issues. That's a balancing act he needs to master.