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National education in Hong Kong

History lesson must be taken seriously by Hong Kong government

Curriculum aims to instil a sense of national belonging and responsibility among youngsters, and as long as it is carried out properly there is no reason to resist

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 1:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 1:32am

The need to learn about the history and culture of one’s country is universal. Our reunification with mainland China after more than a century of British colonial rule makes the case even stronger. But the long-standing divide between the two places and an increasingly politicised environment also fuel worries of our youngsters being brainwashed. The key is to go about it in a way comfortable to all stakeholders concerned.

Teachers want more resources for national education through ‘fun learning’

Under the revised Chinese history curriculum, released for a second round of consultation on Monday, modern China will become an important part of the syllabus. The rise and fall of different ancient dynasties are squeezed into the first two years of study, leaving the third year focusing on contemporary development. Relations between Hong Kong and the mainland since 1949, the Sino-British negotiations on the city’s future and the Basic Law are also covered.

That all landmark developments cannot be covered is just inevitable for a country with some 5,000 years of history. But it raises valid questions when key events such as the 1967 riots and the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 have been left out. Their repercussions are still felt today. Officials argued that the topics could still be discussed in class if teachers so wished. But with the curriculum so heavily packed, there would be hardly time to go beyond what is required. The attitudes of some officials in charge of the review and their dismissive remarks also did not help when it came to explaining the changes.

Who’s afraid of Chinese history lessons?

The curriculum aims to instil among other things a sense of national belonging and responsibility among our youngsters. Whether it may be achieved remains to be seen. But it is good that the government agrees the subject should be taught in an unbiased, fact-based and professional manner. As long as it is carried out in a comprehensive and objective way, there is no reason to resist.

However legitimate the review, it will not succeed without the support of the stakeholders. Given the importance and controversial nature of the curriculum, the government would do well to address the concerns of the education sector seriously.