HONG Kong's art education is beginning to place emphasis on theory and study of Chinese culture and is moving away from the European education influence, according to a senior Education Department official. Yeung Wai-fung, Principal Inspector (Cultural Craft) of the Education Department's Advisory Inspectorate, was attending an art exhibition organised by City University of Hong Kong recently. 'Hong Kong arts students used to be trained in the 'making and doing' dimension with relatively little focus on the study of art theory, history, appreciation and criticism. 'Although a large part of the HKCEE, Advanced Supplementary and A-Level art curriculum emphasises creation of art, only a few candidates come out as real artists. 'Thus it is necessary to equip students with the knowledge of art history and familiarise them with the parameters of art criticism and appreciation.' A committee of art education experts was reviewing the existing curriculum and making the necessary changes in accordance with available resources in schools and the needs of students and society, Mr Yeung said. 'Practically the curriculum changes every year, but the results of these changes cannot be seen overnight.' The department was also aware of the need to focus on Chinese art and was trying to incorporate it into the present curriculum, he said. 'In the past Hong Kong was deeply influenced by overseas countries especially those of Europe and there was little room for the study of Chinese art. 'As the 1997 hand-over approaches, I personally think that this development is necessary.' Such changes would lead to subsequent changes in the local art teaching approach too. 'Chinese art tradition emphasises the master-apprentice relationship, where the master passes on the knowledge to his disciples who receive constant guidance from him. This would trigger off some major changes in the existing curriculum.' But he added that one of the main obstacles to art development was parents' pragmatic approach towards education. 'Most parents in Hong Kong are somewhat materialistic, always looking for opportunities to make money. They expect their children to just concentrate on academic subjects instead of exploring arts. 'In this sense, parents' support is crucial.' The exhibition, in which 94 artists from Hong Kong and the mainland displayed their works, also included 10 winning paintings from talented secondary students. Mr Fung said the students' perception of 'Hong Kong in the past 10 years' reflected both their positive and negative feelings about the future. 'There are diversified emotions displayed in these paintings and they reveal both their optimism as well as pessimism.'