National education in Hong Kong

Embattled Hong Kong education minister Eddie Ng says he will retire at end of term

Secretary for education since 2012 says he still doesn’t understand heavy criticism he received over controversial national education policy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 1:23pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 10:13pm

Hong Kong’s embattled education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim will retire when his term comes to an end in June, he announced on Sunday.

Ng also looked back at his past five years in the post and hit out at critics who blamed him for being the mastermind of plans to introduce national education.

Reflecting on his time as secretary for education since 2012, Ng said he still found it “strange” that many people criticised him for pressing ahead with the controversial national education curriculum, which was aimed at instilling in students a sense of belonging to their motherland.

The government eventually backed down on the compulsory introduction of the subject in 2012, giving schools the choice of whether to teach the subject.

“You see, all my hair has turned white. I should be retiring. After these five years, my aim is to retire,” Ng said.

Education chief is dodging his responsibilities

He added that all the promises on education made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in his 2012 election manifesto had been fulfilled.

“When I first took up the post, the national education incident emerged. I found it strange and, in fact, I still don’t understand why so many people criticised me for pressing ahead with it. It was not me who pressed ahead with it. It has been implemented for many years,” Ng said.

“But then, society suddenly cared about it so much. Perhaps it was the election factor that caused such a strong reaction,” he continued, referring to the Legislative Council polls that year.

Moral and civic education was one of the four key tasks in curriculum reform undertaken by the government in 2001 to develop positive values and attitudes in students.

The Revised Moral and Civic Education Curriculum Framework was introduced in 2008. The national education aspects of certain learning areas and subjects were changed to strengthen the implementation of moral and national education.

In 2012, the government backed down on the compulsory introduction of national education after 10 days of protests that culminated in an “Occupy Tamar” rally by tens of thousands of people at the government headquarters.

“I will have to take some rest and spend more time with my family, as well as read 30 books a month,” Ng said. He also vowed to exercise more.

One in three Hong Kong Form Five students face ‘national identity crisis’: survey

He stressed that he had introduced many initiatives which would benefit students’ future.

“As I said, 10 or 15 years ago people complained about Hong Kong lacking opportunities for secondary school leavers to achieve their university dreams. We have now achieved this – 46 per cent go to university,” he said.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said he was glad that Ng would be retiring, saying:“Many people would agree that he is a very disappointing official. He failed to solve a lot of problems.”

Ip also criticised Ng for his reluctance to listen to the views of students and teachers, citing the occasion last year when the official turned down a request to attend a public hearing on the much criticised Territory-wide System Assessment exams as he would be out of town for “personal reasons”.

According to the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme, Ng’s net approval rate stood at minus 54 per cent last month, the poorest among all bureau chiefs.