National education in Hong Kong

Letters to the Editor, September 08, 2012

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2012, 2:38am

Teachers could still use their discretion

It upsets me to still hear opponents of the moral and national education policy base the reasons for their stance on the idea of brainwashing.

Firstly, brainwashing entails the eradication of a particular thought or idea in a person, followed by adding new, different thoughts.

National education, even in the odd case where a school only teaches the acclamation of our country, may not equate to brainwashing, since it does not remove previous, negative thoughts of the students.

Secondly, we must admit that there are aspects of education that could be described as brainwashing, for example, removing the wrong concepts of say, mathematics, and then adding the right ones, so that the student may calculate accurately.

In humanities subjects such as history, we generally concur that, as neutral as they may appear to be, textbooks will show some bias for particular ideas in line with the views of the authors.

This may be included in the book as direct comment or it may manifest itself in the omission of certain facts. Yet we continue to use such textbooks. Why do we do this? It's probably because teachers using the books can take a flexible approach.

They can teach what is in the curriculum textbook but provide additional material to ensure a balance so that their students can have a fuller picture of a subject.

A good teacher can think analytically and can counter any perceived bias in a book.

I would think that, as schools are being given in excess of three years as a transition period for the subject and the preparation of material, they can ensure their teachers are adequately trained and are able to minimise any bias that they perceive as existing in the textbooks provided.

As learning objectives, they serve as the minimum requirement.

When deciding on the internal policies that will govern the course, school bodies can go beyond this minimum.

What I do see as a shortcoming in the government's overall policy regarding national education is the inadequate consultation period allocated.

However, I do not think you can overemphasise the importance of patriotism. It is sorely lacking among the parents of students, parents raised and educated in colonial Hong Kong.

Since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has backed the national education subject and it will be implemented, surely it is best to look at its possible benefits and come up with positive ideas, such as giving schools more time and teachers better training. It's time to undo a prevalent colonial mindset.

Shum Weng-hei, North Point


Patriotism can only be nurtured

I refer to the letter by Jennifer Eagleton ("National education already taught", September 4).

Why does the government want to implement national education in schools? Does it think Hong Kong youngsters harbour traitorous thoughts?

We oppose it being taught in class because it overlaps the content of Chinese history and liberal studies.

It will impose a colossal burden on teachers and students.

Secondary school students have been learning about Chinese art and culture for years. There is no doubt Hongkongers know about the country.

Furthermore, patriotism is a heartfelt emotion which can be nurtured, but it cannot be instilled through biased textbooks.

We all have a responsibility to adopt the right attitude and to learn more about our motherland, but we do not want to be taught what to think.

Chang Hoi-ka, Kwai Chung


Bus drivers need more health checks

I refer to the report ("5 injured as bus hits shopping mall", August 27).

I would say that buses are the most common form of public transport in Hong Kong.

As you reported, in this incident the driver "reportedly fainted at the wheel". And in June, "there was a fatal crash in Tuen Mun in which the driver also fainted" while driving.

The driver in last week's accident, aged 51, had apparently passed a regular health check in May.

What happened made me think of my uncle. Three years ago, aged 55, he was a bus driver for KMB.

He was very dedicated to his job and he told me he enjoyed every single moment and felt happy that he was working for his passengers. Unfortunately, he failed the annual health check. He was therefore forced to retire.

At first he was angry that he had become unemployed. But later he realised it was the right decision by the bus company as, in his position, he was responsible for the lives of every one of his passengers.

I think all Hong Kong's bus companies should undertake health checks for their drivers twice a year.

I also believe that the drivers themselves should go for a check-up if they suspect that something is wrong.

They have to recognise the responsibility they have to all the passengers who are in their care.

Ronald Leung, Kwun Tong


The case for subsidising ESF schools

I refer to Cynthia Sze's comments ("ESF's current subsidy should be phased out", September 3) about the English Schools Foundation subsidies. There are many things about the ESF that I find distasteful but I believe that, in principle, it should be subsidised by the Hong Kong taxpayer.

First, the parents of ESF children pay tax - quite a lot in some cases.

This is in contrast to many of the parents of children at local schools.

Second, it is only right that the Hong Kong government provides an international education when it claims that Hong Kong is Asia's world city.

Last, but not least, the ESF caters for the children of "transient migrants" who otherwise would not come to Hong Kong and contribute to its economy.

And, despite the sins of the imperialists in years gone by, it is this input from expatriates (which admittedly is motivated by self-interest) that has helped make Hong Kong the fabulous city that it is.

So until the Hong Kong government gets its act together and starts providing its own world-class English-language education (something which I am sure would be applauded by many local residents, as opposed to policies like moral and national education being forced on an unwilling population), the subsidised ESF system must be retained.

Mark E. Medwecki, Clear Water Bay


Take photos of rare blue skies for posterity

On the last day of this summer's school holidays, September 2, I sincerely hope parents took their children out to a high place to show them how bright and exciting, and so liveable, Hong Kong used to be.

Should such a day reoccur soon, Hongkongers should be urged officially to go out and take photos of the wondrous sights that Hongkongers used to enjoy many days of the year not so long ago.

"Take the photos lest the sights never return", the government should advise us. That would really be a useful bit of a Hong Kong SAR regional education syllabus.

Barry Girling, Tung Chung


Tycoon's foibles set no example

It was with utter dismay I read the article on the Emperor Group founder Albert Yeung Sau-shing who "feels inferior if he carries less than HK$50,000 in his wallet" ("Emperor boss likes the feel of money", September 5).

Do I want to listen to his secrets to success if he suffers from an inferiority complex?

Your report talked about him "cheating with celebrities while married" and his obsession with neatness and that he would "feel very unhappy" if "any sauce drops on the dining table".

Do we want to teach such principles to the younger generation - that, for example, it is all about money-making and Mr Yeung's glorification of his obsessions?

Saroj Mudaliar, Lai Chi Kok


Pernicious influence of smartphones

Although smartphones are convenient and help us in so many ways, I am concerned about the effect they can have on some people, especially teenagers.

They are often seen as a status symbol and I am concerned that some teenagers may be so desperate to buy a new model when it becomes available that they are willing to commit crimes, such as shoplifting, to get the money to pay for one. We have to take care that values in society are not distorted.

I am also worried about what effect the phones have on the art of communication. Now you can chat to others through texting. Face-to-face communication is becoming less frequent.

Some people use their smartphones so much that the devices come to dominate their lives and this is unhealthy.

People need to be aware of the pitfalls and become less reliant on all the electronic gadgets now available.

Andy Chan Tsz-on, Tseung Kwan O