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.
News on national education controversy tops student poll
Local secondary students pick the controversy over curriculum the biggest news item of 2012
The national education controversy came in at No 1 in the 2012 Hong Kong Secondary Students' Top 10 News Election.
The survey, organised by the politically independent Hok Yau Club, asked more than 85,000 pupils from 120 local secondary schools to pick, from 30 options, the top 10 most important news stories in their opinion.
News on the national education saga garnered 73.15 per cent of the votes to take the first place in the poll.
Among the 10 news items on the list, four were related to cross-border tensions.
Based on the survey, secondary pupils were highly concerned about the national education issue, the ban on mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong and suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of mainland activist Li Wangyang .
News of mainland professor Kong Qingdong labelling Hong Kong people as lackeys of the British was voted the 10th most important item.
"Education is very important to us, and that's why we care more about the national education issue," said Lau Kin-Kwan, a King's College student representative.
"We are becoming more and more interested in the mainland's political and judicial system, especially when they can affect Hong Kong."
Hok Yau Club said the survey results shed light on the differences between Hongkongers and mainlanders in terms of their outlook on the economy, politics and culture. Owing to an increasing sense of local identity and the growing role of social media in the lives of young people today, pupils were becoming more interested in news involving conflicts or tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland, the club said.
"We suggest that secondary schools and teachers follow the pupils' concerns and take the opportunity to help them learn more about Chinese culture, history and social development while teaching them to think independently and critically at the same time," club member Jason Chui Tsz-kit said.
The top three most important mainland news items picked by the pupils in the survey were the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu islands; Chinese dissident Li's suspicious death, and the public outcry against Kong's insulting remark about Hong Kong people being lackeys.
Top 10 news items as voted by secondary school students
1. National education controversy
2. Diaoyu islands dispute between China and Japan
3. Lamma Island ferry tragedy on National Day
4. Ban on mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong
5. Controversy over Leung Chun-ying's victory in the Chief Executive election
6. Activist Li Wangyang's suspicious death
7. Volunteers help remove plastic pellets spilled on beach
8. Henry Tang Ying-yen's loss of public trust after his illegal structure scandal
9. New Diploma of Secondary School Education intensifying competition for first degree places in Hong Kong
10. Mainland professor Kong Qingdong's labelling of Hongkongers as "running dogs"