National education in Hong Kong

HK minorities urge the use of civic study instead of national education

Curriculum too narrow and focused on Chinese identity, say minority pupils seeking alternative

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 9:12pm

A civic curriculum promoting multiculturalism should be taught in schools instead of the mainland-focused national education programme, say students from ethnic minorities - who have the support of critics of the new subject.

"I consider myself a Hongkonger, but the current [subject] guidelines describe [non-Chinese] as outsiders," said Gurwinder Kaur, 20, an Indian who was born in Hong Kong.

Kaur, a trainee teacher, says the proposed curriculum risks further marginalising ethnic minorities and engendering racism because it overemphasises Chinese identity based on geography, blood ties and a common sense of belonging. It also does not place China in a global context, she says.

She was speaking yesterday at a press conference organised by the Civil Alliance against National Education to mark the formation of a government advisory committee on national education, which the alliance has refused to join.

Maria Wong Yuen-ping, chairwoman of the Special Education Society of Hong Kong, said: "Why doesn't it [the curriculum] include things like where China is located in the world, its association with Hong Kong, the different races, how many languages are spoken?"

Wong says the present guidelines do not work for the roughly 20,000 disabled and intellectually challenged students in the education system.

According to the alliance, about 14,000 ethnic minority students attend government-subsidised schools. Some were born in Hong Kong into families who have been in the city for generations - many because their grandparents served in the police force and civil service.

The alliance noted that all the new committee's members are Chinese and said last year's public consultation that led to the introduction of national education effectively excluded ethnic minorities because the proposal was published only in Chinese.

The new curriculum should recognise ethnic minorities as Hong Kong residents, the alliance argues. It also questions whether teachers would be able to deal with the cultural clashes that could arise from overly nationalistic tendencies.

That's because they seldom receive training on ethnic sensitivity in their professional or on-the-job training, the alliance says.