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Hong Kong Basic Law

Hong Kong educators hit out at plans to launch guidelines on Basic Law education

The critics say the move could exert ‘invisible pressure’ and interfere with internal school affairs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 10:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 11:55pm

A plan to launch guidelines for schools on Basic Law education in this school year has been criticised by educators as potentially exerting “invisible pressure” and interfering with internal school affairs.

The move comes at a sensitive time for the city as an independence movement is gaining popularity among Hongkongers, including students.

The guidelines were intended to help schools in self-planning and self-assessing Basic Law education through professional training courses, an Education Bureau spokeswoman said.

She added that the tool was still at the drafting stage and more details would be revealed later.

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Dr Christine Choi Yuk-lin, a secondary school principal who is in a working group under the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee, said the tool was discussed during one of its meetings.

She pointed out that the tool included asking schools to detail the content and number of hours spent on Basic Law education.

A source from the Education Bureau told the Post it would not require schools to submit the evaluation forms to the bureau, but encouraged them to include the forms in their annual public reports to explain how their Basic Law education was going.

The source explained the tool was to encourage schools to keep a record of their Basic Law education, review their past curriculum and see whether there was room for improvement.

“At least we want to let people know that we take Basic Law education seriously and want to move this forward,” the source said.

Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, said that if it was indeed not compulsory for schools to submit the self-assessment, the bureau needed to state this clearly so “invisible pressure” was not exerted on schools.

He added, “Basic Law elements are taught under current curriculums, so there is no need for the bureau to interfere with school matters.”

Basic Law materials are currently covered in classes such as general studies for primary schools and Chinese history, history and liberal studies for secondary schools.

Fung also questioned the motive for the move. Choi said she thought it could have come from calls in society to enhance Basic Law education following the Occupy movement in 2014 and the recent use of a derogatory term for China in oaths taken by two localist lawmakers-elect.

In August, the Education Bureau set off a storm by warning that teachers risked disqualification if they encouraged students to engage in pro-independence talk.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim later said students could only discuss the contentious topic within the limits of the Basic Law, which states that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.

Since September, localist groups claiming to be students from various secondary schools have been involved in pro-independence activities on or near campuses, such as handing out flyers.