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.
Hong Kong schools unlikely to offer national education classes
School bodies unlikley to offer controversial subject after panel suggests scrapping guide
Schools are unlikely to offer national education as an independent subject after a government advisory committee suggested scrapping the curriculum guide of the controversial topic, several sponsoring bodies say.
One school principal said recent massive protests and heated debate on social media, including strong concerns expressed by parents and pupils, had made national education a taboo topic for educators regardless of their political stance, even though some critics had overreacted.
Educators were responding yesterday to an announcement by the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education on Thursday that it would recommend the government invalidate the guidelines, issued in April.
Yan Chai Hospital board chairman Cheng Shing-lung said its primary and secondary schools had been told not to follow the guide, which suggested schools dedicate formal class time to patriotic lessons.
With opposition to national education spread citywide, some parents had responded emotionally, Cheng said. He cited the case of a parent of a Yan Chai school who had complained about the hoisting of the Chinese national flag at morning assembly, a practice that started in 1997.
"The complaint reached the school's supervisor, who explained to the parent it was just a flag-raising ceremony and nothing else," he said.
Because of the strong views of parents he expected some Yan Chai schools would never teach the subject.
One of the largest sponsoring bodies, Sheng Kung Hui, or the Anglican Church, said it would continue to offer moral and civic education, including elements about developments in China.
Timothy Ha Wing-ho, education adviser to Sheng Kung Hui who had called for the ditching of the guide, said the government must quickly respond to the committee's suggestions.
An official of another Christian school sponsoring body, who asked not to be named, said the controversy served as a wake-up call for Hongkongers about the importance of civic society and discussions about public policy.
"This is the best national education for Hong Kong. The most vocal activists are youngsters and they are the hope of the future generation," he said.
Fresh Fish Traders' School principal Leung Kee-cheong, whose school is among several that have insisted on offering the curriculum, urged members of the public not to ignore the need to learn about China 15 years after the handover.
Likening national education to sex education, Leung said the lack of it would only do more harm than good. "We shouldn't ignore it," he said. "If it becomes a taboo topic that people don't want to talk about, they will lack general knowledge."