Learning to appreciate China will become a core part of a reformed curriculum which seeks to make national education a compulsory subject for all schoolchildren in Hong Kong, starting as early as next year. While the authorities say lessons in moral and national education will promote individual development, critics say such lessons could turn into political brainwashing and promote the Communist Party. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has promised to improve Hong Kong pupils' knowledge of the nation in successive policy addresses, following remarks by President Hu Jintao during a visit in 2007 on the importance of giving Hong Kong children a better understanding of China's development and identity. Under proposals released yesterday, which are subject to a four-month consultation period, schools would have to spare up to 50 hours a school year, or about two lessons a week, for the new subject. In what is described as an identity-building approach, schoolchildren will learn, according to their age, to sing the national anthem, attend national-flag-raising ceremonies, understand the Basic Law, support national sports teams, and appreciate and understand Chinese culture. They will also learn about the development of China through studying current affairs. The subject will also incorporate civic education and personal development, such as learning to be polite and to keep promises. There will be no examinations in the subject, but performance will be assessed based on the views of teachers, parents and classmates. Assessment will be based on criteria including whether pupils feel happy to be Chinese, or consider the needs of the country when planning their future. Chairman of the moral and national education ad hoc committee under the Curriculum Development Council, Professor Lee Chack-fan, said the subject 'aims to provide pupils with systematic learning objectives, focusing on developing positive values and attitudes to enhance their personal and national qualities'. The subject would be introduced in primary schools next year and secondary schools in 2013, according to the committee. Democratic Party legislator Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education sector, warned of possible political brainwashing. 'It is more important to give students a comprehensive and true picture of China,' Cheung said. 'National education should not be teaching students to toe the Communist Party's line, but to understand universal values.' Ho Hon-kuen, vice-chairman of Education Convergency, which represents school administrators, also cast doubt on the plan. 'If it is not an open examination subject, students will not take it seriously,' Ho said. Chief curriculum development officer Dr Cheung Wing-hung rejected the criticism. 'The design of the curriculum is to encourage students to look at an event from different perspectives before building up their own values,' he said. 'Teachers are free to discuss any topics in class.' The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union feared the introduction of a new subject would increase teachers' workloads. Some parents also questioned the timing. 'Teachers are already tied up by the launch of the new secondary curriculum,' said Wong Yam-wah, of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations in Tai Po District. The consultation will run until August 31.