THE Education Department has been accused of misleading primary schools by urging them to join a controversial curriculum without giving them enough information and time to study it. Schools have until September 4 to decide whether to join the Target Oriented Curriculum in September 1996, according to a circular issued by the Education Department on July 10. But school supervisors and principals were shocked to read the circular headed 'The Target Oriented Curriculum to be fully implemented in 1996-97' and were undecided what to do. Yesterday, the Professional Teachers' Union called on the Education Department to extend the deadline for reply and to clarify the curriculum, which it said should be taken up voluntarily. The curriculum, originating from the Education Commission Report No 4, aims to give students specific targets at different stages. Their assessment will be based on these targets, rather than their performance relative to others. Seventy schools will introduce the curriculum in Chinese, English and maths classes in Primary One next month, and it should be in all schools by 2000. However, Professional Teachers' Union president Cheung Man-kwong said many schools were not prepared to start and would like to examine the trial results before making a decision. The union was also angry as Secretary for Education and Manpower Michael Leung Man-kin told legislators last December that the Government would not force schools to begin the curriculum, Mr Cheung said. 'But now the Education Department says . . . the curriculum will be fully implemented in 1996. Does it mean schools will have no choice but to adopt the approach?' He asked. Assistant Director of Education Leung Yat-ming denied the department was misleading teachers. He said it was working on its plan to introduce the plan to all Primary One classes in September 1996, but added: 'This is not mandatory. Schools can join it or reject it voluntarily. 'But we want to collect their attitudes towards the scheme before September 4, so parents can choose schools for their kindergarten children in mid-September.'