The Ombudsman is investigating the government funding of two Beijing-loyalist centres that published textbooks for the national education course starting next month and sent them to schools.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union said yesterday it had received a letter informing it that the Ombudsman had launched a probe.
The union said the watchdog had told the group in a letter that a case had been opened over the funding, amounting to about HK$12 million a year, given to the National Education Centre and the National Education Services Centre. The Federation of Education Workers operates the centres, both of which are headed by Beijing-loyalist leader Yeung Yiu-chung.
Since 2007 the centres have been organising activities to promote national pride among youngsters, such as conducting field trips to the mainland and training teachers. The groups have also sent teaching materials to many schools, which critics say present biased views and praise one-party rule.
Many schools have decided not to introduce national education, which the government says will engender national pride but critics - including school sponsoring bodies, teachers and parents - fear will be used for 'brainwashing'. The subject will be mandatory in all public primary and secondary schools from 2016.
The PTU, known for its pro-democracy stance, complained that the rights to produce the national education material were granted without a proper public tender. In 2007 the details of a public tender were not published in the Government Gazette, and in 2004 the rights were given to the National Education Centre without any public tender, it said.
The centres had also been using abandoned school premises for a nominal fee, which the PTU said was unfair.
Last night an Education Bureau spokesman said its officials would co-operate with the investigation. In the letter to PTU chairman Fung Wai-wah, the Ombudsman said the decision to investigate was made after studying 'relevant materials'.