National education should be introduced as mandatory subject

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 1:51am


The introduction of moral and national education in the primary and secondary school curriculum has proved to be controversial.

Some representatives of students, teachers and parents have disagreed with the syllabus and have said that the subject is indoctrination in disguise. Last month, there was a march against the introduction of the subject and, while I respect people's right to protest, I don't quite agree with their stance.

There is a widely held view that the national education course is tantamount to brainwashing. But I wonder how many of these critics have actually read through the curriculum guide thoroughly. If they have not done so, and blindly buy into certain views expressed through the mass media, various organisations and political groups, perhaps they are the ones who are being brainwashed. They emphasise the importance of critical thinking, and yet do not seem to be exercising their critical thinking faculties. As an educator, I would say that curriculum guides or teaching materials for any course are just that, guides; they are for reference only. There is always room for teachers to exercise their professional judgment to decide what to cover in the lesson. Teachers are professionals, and most of them would not deliver a lesson that goes against their conscience.

Because there has been such a heated debate, I decided to study the curriculum guide and I could not find any signs of indoctrination.

According to the learning objects set forth under "national domain", for example, Primary One to Three students need to cultivate their national identity through understanding and respecting the emblems of China. Primary Four to Six students capture the essence of Chinese culture and practise virtues like love and integrity. Form One to Three (secondary) students understand the development of China from a historical perspective; and Form Four to Six students probe significant historical events from a holistic perspective. The document in fact grants teachers flexibility about what to discuss in lessons, including such "sensitive" issues as the tainted milk scandals and the arrest of [jailed human rights activist] Liu Xiaobo .

National education aims to foster a sense of belonging and patriotism among its citizens.

If we are to teach children to love their parents (even though they may not be perfect), what's wrong with teaching the students to love their own country? I don't see why moral and national education should not be implemented as a mandatory subject in our education system.

P. Leung, Mid-Levels