The Hong Kong government has sought since 2007 to introduce "national education" courses into primary and secondary school curriculum, aimed at strengthening students' "national identity awareness" and nurturing patriotism towards China. The programme has met with increasing public opposition in recent years, with many in Hong Kong seeing it as a brainwashing attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to suppress dissent.
Scrap national education guidelines, commission urges
The national education programme received a new setback on Thursday, when a government commission recommended tossing out the official guideline for the controversial course.
Anna Wu Hung-yuk, chairwoman of the committee on the implementation of moral and national education, said there was no further need for an official guide, now that schools were free to decide for themselves whether to teach the subject.
“This means the current, official guide will not have any more effect,” she told reporters after the commission’s second formal meeting, on Thursday afternoon. The government formed the panel to advise it on national education.
In a dramatic U-turn decision about three weeks ago, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced that individual schools would be free to choose whether to teach the national education subject. He pledged not to push for a compulsory course while in office.
His decision followed week-long protests by thousands of students, parents and teachers at the government headquarters in Admiralty and other locations.
Leung said then that the official guide – on how schools should teach the subject – still needed to be re-evaluated.
Opponents of the course argued that as long as the official guide existed, the course could be relaunched some day.
Wu said her panel would formally recommend that the government cancel the guide.
“Since we think there is no need for the guide, we will not recommend the government amend or review it,” she said.
Despite Leung’s policy change, concern groups have called for the government to scrap both the subject and official guide.
Officials have said the new course was intended to instil national pride in young people, while critics warned it could turn into a tool for indoctrinating youngsters with blind fervour for the mainland.