Time to end national education row

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 8:49am

The furore over national education will hopefully come to an end. Both sides seem to have reached an amicable settlement in which the government was allowed a face-saving way to admit defeat. As announced by Anna Wu Hung-yuk, the head of the government's task force on the subject, schools may decide on their own how to pursue national education. However, the official 200-plus-page guideline has been declared "invalidated" and will not be replaced with another one. Officials are therefore able to claim national education remains part of our school curriculum while effectively dropping it.

To the credit of an alliance of parents, students and activists, they have understood the reality behind the government's claim and have softened their stance. Earlier, they threatened to stage another mass rally outside the Legislative Council next week if the government did not scrap the subject. Instead, they will now hold a meeting rather than a protest. But yesterday, representative after representative said they now accepted the government's position, subject to conditions.

"From the very beginning, we targeted the guideline as the basis of national education," said Joshua Wong Chi-fung, convenor of the student group Scholarism.

Now that the guideline has been shelved, he said they had achieved their purpose. Young Joshua has shown wisdom beyond his years in translating victories on the battlefield into a diplomatic surrender for the government.

Continuing their protest would do no good. The crisis has politicised campuses across the city and disrupted normal schooling. The alliance says it will continue to monitor schools that may try to slip propaganda materials into their classes by giving them different labels. We hope this will not become some kind of "white terror" in which teachers and principals are denounced for teaching materials unapproved by the alliance.

There is room to teach national education, or better, contemporary Chinese history in our schools. But given the sensitivity, parents and individual school officials need to consult and work with each other, now that they are free to do what they want with the subject without the straitjacket of a government guideline. It's time to put this crisis behind us.