• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:46am
NewsHong Kong

Outrage over primary school textbook that asks pupils to 'match the races'

'Many offended' by books that ask primary pupils to identify physical characteristics of different races and match them to likely jobs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 3:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 3:10am

Two education scholars are behind a series of general studies textbooks that have sparked bitter controversy for their racially stereotypical contents.

The textbooks - New General Studies - are co-authored by Irene Cheng Nga-yee, assistant professor in the Institute of Education's department of science and environment studies, and Teresa Chai Yip Wai-lin, former deputy head of the institute's department of social sciences.

Neither the scholars nor the publisher, Educational Publishing House, could be reached for comment last night.

The textbooks, for primary pupils, have been criticised for their focus on physical differences among races and stereotypes about their life and work.

In a chapter called Racial Harmony, in a textbook titled Living in Hong Kong, pupils are required to discuss how "foreigners" live based on photos showing people of different ethnic backgrounds doing different jobs. One of the photos shows a white male in a neat, black suit carrying a black suitcase, while another photo shows a South Asian man on a construction site.

In the workbook accompanying the textbook - published for Primary Three pupils - children are asked to complete word bubbles for five cartoon figures.

A bubble next to a white man with an English textbook reads, "I am [blank]. I am an English teacher", while the text next to a woman with darker skin reads, "I am [blank]. I am a domestic helper in Hong Kong". Choices for the blanks include British, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

In the We are a Family chapter of The Wonderful World textbook for Primary Four pupils, children are required to "circle the correct answers" to "common physical characteristics" of different races, such as whether a black boy has thin or thick lips. Other descriptions of the black boy include "very dark skin" and "curly hair".

The workbook asks pupils to match "the white race", "the black race", "the brown race" and "the yellow race" with figures representing Africans, Japanese, British, Australian Aborigines, Chinese and Dutch.

"Many people find it offensive," said Marysia Marchant, an English teacher at a Chinese-medium school which does not use the textbooks.

Marchant said such books reinforced stereotypes such as that all British were white and that South Asians could do only menial jobs. "The only value is for children to do critical thinking to see what's wrong with it."

The Equal Opportunities Commission said educational materials should reflect diversity instead of stereotypes and it hoped the Curriculum Development Institute and the Education Bureau could jointly develop equal-opportunities materials.

The Education Bureau said the series was not on its recommended textbook list.

But a staff member at Ling Kee Bookstore on Des Voeux Road Central said more than half of the city's English-medium schools, including many "elite schools", had been using the series.

The bureau said it had asked the publisher to follow up.



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Cheng is not only an excellent racist, she gets to parlay her skills as a member of the Chief Executive's Award for Teaching Excellence Assessment Panel as well as the Education Bureau's Curriculum Development Committee of the Hong Kong Examinations & Assessment Authority.
Yip, on the other hand, was once a member of the Quality Education Fund Steering Committee, making sure her racist views got properly funded, no doubt, by, among other things, spooning out HK$5.8 m for a project in which she herself was involved. Always helps to be on both sides of any transaction.
After living in Hong Kong for over 18 years, I have learned that what would be considered "racist" attitudes in many countries, are commonly accepted views by most (Chinese) Hong Kong residents. Examples: when I answer a taxi driver's question "where are you from?" and I answer, "Israel" invariably their response is something along the lines of "Oh, so you're Jewish? The Jews are very good in business." I don't think for a minute that the driver meant to insult me or had negative feelings towards me. On the contrary, it was meant as a compliment. But in other countries that would be construed as an anti-semetic and racial slur. Example 2: When I took my Filipina wife (legally married in HK for many years), to a private club that WE were members of, a waiter asked me to please have my maid wait outside. No doubt that was racism. Example 3: when I arrive at HK Airport, just before the Immigration counters, there is an employee of the airport who "shows" incoming passengers which queue to join. As a white (****) they immediately point me to the Visitors counters even though I have been a permanent resident for many years. in other countries this would be racial "profiling". In Hong Kong, it is just "normal". So my conclusion is that the Hong Kong Government needs to do a lot in educating the children that even "benign" racism is unacceptable. But I doubt they ever will because these government people will never admit that anything is wrong.
Ianson, loved your info.
Poor excuse of a textbook; and it boggles the mind that such 'professors' produced them. I sincerely hope the Hong Kong Institute of Education will get flack for this.
I have seen the page described. The contents are puerile and discriminatory. Nothing will happen as the Education Bureau has taken 'action' and passed the problem to the publishers.
Our teacher an assistant professor at I Ed. gave every student in our class a copy of a publication he contributed to. He proudly directed the students in our class to a task based unit of work that he had developed called the T.S.T. project in which he sends secondary students to T.S.T. to interview "foreigners". In the data analysis of the interviews he stated that a certain number of "foreigners" are Hong Kong residents. This is teaching our teachers who will teach our future young people to discriminate based on race. It's no wonder there is a racial divide in our society, our teachers are being taught to discriminate based on race. Hong Kong residents (citizens) are not "foreigners" while they are in Hong Kong but if their skin and hair color (their race) isn't right then it is a convenient word to describe them.
It is only through education that we will be able to change peoples thinking and create an integrated, pluralistic society. God knows that enough Hong Kong people are holders of nationalities in different countries around the world and people in those countries would dare not call any one of them a foreigner.
"I am Irene Cheng and I have no idea what is racial harmony." they should this line too.
Next they will be including caliper scales for skull sizes. Might as well go all out. These are professors?
what about the famous interview questions at local elite schools - how did you come to the interview, public transport, taxi or with a driver?
Honestly speaking, avoiding being stereotypical can be something that everyone needs to fight against within everyday. We all have the arithmetic gear inside our mind that we like to do logical deduction. When we saw the front coming 99 objects were all apple, we tend to think the 100th would be an apple too. I am not trying to find excuse for being stereotypical but want to say everyone has to remind ourselves frequently and cautiously that thinking pattern will build up along with our every day's growing but ironically still extremely limited experience when compared to the real great big world we are living in. Hong Kong is a busy place that we tend to go for an extra mile on efficiency or quantity in the expense of quality. Thus, education in this area in particular becomes even more important for all of us and generations to come. Irene and Teresa, we are not particularly hard on you but this subject is just too important.
Both Irene and Teresa should come forward and admit their fault by performing the HARA KIRI or also known as SEPPUKU. This act has two meanings: they admit the fault and are willing to take on the responsibility and, demonstrating that being stereotypical could be wrong as people believe only Japanese commits Seppuku. :p


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