One of the seven primary schools known to be planning to teach national education announced yesterday that it would halt lessons in the contentious subject, as opposition from alumni and parents mounted.
Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School in Sha Tin posted a notice to parents on its website yesterday afternoon, saying that acting on the latest instruction from its sponsoring organisation, the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, the school had decided to defer launching the subject.
Instead, it said, it would stick to the long-established civic and moral education subject in the 2012/13 school year.
On Tuesday the Baptist convention's general secretary, the Reverend Peter Tsui, said: "At this time, when there is so much argument and the government has not offered a good response and evaluation, we should consider suspending the launch."
Despite an announcement that yesterday's session designated for the controversial subject would be changed to other class activities, some parents still gave their children a slip requesting teachers send them to the library if the school ran the national education lesson.
Some even deliberately sent their children to school late so they would miss the 30-minute session, slated for 8am.
Both parents and alumni welcomed the school's decision, but said they were worried that elements of national education might penetrate through other subjects.
"It's good that the school listened to our voices and postponed implementing the subject," said a mother with two children studying at the school. "But I'm afraid it might continue to teach the controversial curriculum via other subjects."
Wong Ho-lun, of the alumni concern group, shared the same worries. "My alma mater has turned 'red' in the recent decade," he said. "Some parents told me that photos of the country's leaders were posted along the corridors, and there are numerous exchange activities with mainland schools."
He hoped the school could openly discuss the issue with parents and alumni in future.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Union of Government School Teachers, Wong Hon-kam, told a radio programme yesterday that the Education Bureau had ordered headmasters at government schools to keep an eye on teachers who supported the campaign against national education.
He said that late last month the bureau had asked the headmasters to gauge teachers' reactions - with a notice saying that if teachers "carry out any class boycott" or "reject any work related to the national education subject", the bureau "will consider how to deal with individual cases based on the actual situation".
The bureau issued the second notice this week, asking principals to record how many teachers wore black clothes and how many pupils wore black ribbons on their wrists at school.
On Monday the Civil Alliance Against National Education asked people to show their opposition to the controversial course by wearing black clothes and tying black ribbons to their wrists.
"Some teachers are wearing black clothes to show that they have a conscience," Wong said. "But some dare not wear them because they are feeling mentally stressed out."
The bureau says the notices referred to by the union were just the documents related to the implementation of the subject.
It also insisted that there was "no improper intention or action" and the bureau would not target any individual school or pupil.
The public campaign against national education has spread from schools to the wider community, with about 8,000 people having gathered at the government's headquarters in Admiralty every night since Monday.