Identity and history is part of education
Eyebrows were raised when Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that Chinese history would become an independent compulsory subject for the junior secondary level at the city’s schools. As long as the subject is taught in a comprehensive and unbiased manner, there is no reason to resist
Even though Hong Kong is a predominantly Chinese society, Chinese history has never been taught in schools with the importance it deserves. The takeover by the British as a colony for more than 150 years means the sense of identity among some local Chinese is also flimsy. Now that the city has been reunited with the mainland for 20 years, enhancing one’s understanding of the country and its history is only natural.
Nonetheless, eyebrows were raised when Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stepped up efforts on that front. In a surprise move, she announced that Chinese history would become an independent compulsory subject for the junior secondary level starting from the next school year. She said it was the intrinsic duty of school education to help pupils understand the development of the history, culture, economy, technology, political system and law of their country and to cultivate in them a sense of national identity.
Critics have, unsurprisingly, seen it as a renewed push for the national education curriculum, which was shelved in 2012 amid fears of students being brainwashed with mainland political ideologies. Indeed, there were already concerns when the previous government sought to revise the content covered in the existing Chinese history curriculum last year. That Lam did not highlight the initiative in her policy speech has fuelled further scepticism, with some questioning whether the government is opening the back door for relaunching the curriculum in a hush-hush manner.
Some 89 per cent of local schools were already teaching Chinese history as an independent subject as of last year. The remaining ones combined it with world history. The change, while incremental, is symbolic in that the subject will finally be given the right importance.
Nurturing our younger generation with a better understanding of history and a stronger sense of national identity is part of education. Our reunification with China after more than a century of colonial rule means there is a lot to catch up on. As long as the subject is taught in a comprehensive and unbiased manner, there is no reason to resist, be it national education or the learning of Chinese history.