Warning to teachers makes mockery of civic education aims

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2016, 7:07pm

The Hong Kong government is so determined to nip secession movements in the bud that the Education Bureau issued a warning that teachers promoting the independence of Hong Kong could be struck off.

This “pre-emptive” move has not only led to a social backlash, but subservience to the warning would only stifle the room for civic education. It is stated in the bureau website that moral, civic and national education aims to “develop students’ ability to identify the values embedded, analyse objectively and make reasonable judgment in different issues they may encounter at different developmental stages”. As such, the warning makes a mockery of the objective.

With greater suppression comes greater resistance. While it is essential for the government to preserve the principle of Hong Kong being an inalienable and integral part of China, it should realise that attempts to suppress discussion of socio-political matters in a democracy like Hong Kong would only be futile, with tensions running at an all-time high and political sentiments spilling over into every part of life.

Schools are right in seeking clearer guidelines regarding how teachers should go about addressing those “sensitive” issues. That the Education Bureau fails to delineate what constitutes a violation shows that they will have to trust teachers’ professionalism.

That teachers are warned of the consequences of promoting independence reeks of mistrust. In moral and civic education, teachers are not always the ones who rule the roost and impart information didactically. Rather, they orchestrate learning for students as they are exposed to a myriad of viewpoints.

The more you label those issues as “sensitive” and “taboo”, the more you get young people to discover them and discuss among themselves, which could be even more dangerous.

Socio-political movements provide a living context against which meaningful discussion takes place. Schools offer the best place for discussion of such topics as Hong Kong being an integral part of China and our relationship on different fronts. This is especially so when students broach the issues themselves in lessons.

What the government should be concerned about is perhaps whether the majority of teachers are pedagogically equipped to deal with civic education, as most teachers in Hong Kong are only specialised in the subjects they teach.

Room should be created for meaningful learning and critical thinking, not stifled.

Borromeo Li Ka-kit, Happy Valley