National Education

First meeting of advisory body in national education

Despite parents' concerns and protests about 'brainwashing', talk of dropping subject is off agenda at new advisory body's first meeting

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 2:46am

An advisory body set up to address public concerns over the introduction of the controversial national education curriculum met for the first time yesterday.

But there was no talk of withdrawing the subject, which caused a protest march through the city by up to 90,000 people last month amid claims it was an attempt to "brainwash" pupils.

Chairwoman Anna Wu Hung-yuk said the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education would look into difficulties in introducing the curriculum and screen teaching materials. Wu, an executive councillor, did not respond to questions on whether the committee would discuss the possibility of scrapping the subject.

She said only that schools would be free to decide when and how they should start teaching it. But in a radio interview later she said phrases like "proud of being a Chinese" should be avoided.

The government will launch national education in primary schools next month, and make it compulsory for primary schools in 2015 and in secondary schools the following year.

Parents' representative Dr Gordon Tsui Luen-on, who attended the meeting, confirmed there was no discussion about dropping the subject.

This will be a blow for the Parents Concern Group on National Education, which sought to delay its introduction by urging supporters to write to their children's schools to voice their opposition.

It will also anger the thousands who signed petitions against the subject organised by the student activist group Scholarism.

The committee, announced by the government after the mass protest, is listed as having 24 members. But the Education Bureau said five had yet to accept the invitation to join.

Four major opponents of the subject - Eva Chan Sik-chee, of the Parents Concern Group, and Joshua Wong Chi-fung, of Scholarism, together with representatives of Education Convergence and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union - have already said they will not join.

Professor Lee Chack-fan, who chaired the now-defunct Ad Hoc Committee on Moral and National Education that helped formulate the policy, will be the committee's vice-chairman. Other members represent the Curriculum Development Council, parents, school heads, teacher groups and pupils.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the government invited opponents to join the committee to "show its sincerity". If they insisted on not representing themselves, there were other channels through which views could be exchanged.

Chan said: "I respect this list - which comprises veteran educators and important stakeholders.

"I hope Wu could use her experience as [former] chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission to address the concerns raised by the parents of disabled children and ethnic minorities."

Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, of Scholarism, said: "The list is similar to what we have expected, as there are many members with a pro-Beijing background.

"It's unacceptable that only two places [out of 24] are for student representatives."

Professional Teachers' Union vice-president Wong Hak-lim hoped the government would delay the curriculum and consult the public again.