Only Hong Kong educators and parents should choose national education curriculum
Educators and parents in Hong Kong are being increasingly pressured to introduce so-called national education, which is intended to teach our children about their national identity, history and culture.
Some officials claim this goal has been obstructed by decades of colonial instruction, implying that Hong Kong people are not fully Chinese because they have been exposed to Western values.
It is true that our earlier education system was based on that of the UK. It was intended to provide training for locals to enter government service, and serve the local and international companies that needed English-speaking employees.
The study of Chinese language, history, literature and culture was neglected.
Every nation naturally wants to have its young people know about its origins, respect its laws and understand its customs. Good parents want their offspring to serve their nation and society in cooperative ways, as well as build a more prosperous and peaceful world. But, who chooses the curriculum – outsiders or locals, politicians or educators? Is the subject intended to brainwash innocent minds or enforce a narrow political viewpoint? Will teachers be chosen for their balanced perspective or for compliance with an imposed agenda?
History is a worrisome and divisive subject, since it is written by the victors. In the US, for example, the treatment of the indigenous tribes and the black slaves is skimmed over.
Most history lessons are about political winners, and the heroes are generals and admirals. Students read about glorious battles and successful merchants or entertainers. The result is a skewed view of American history, with little admission of mistakes or guilt, scant efforts to undo injustices, no urge to raise moral standards and little effort to understand other nations and their peoples. Every country has similar courses.
This type of self-glorifying national education is worse than none. It is misleading, reinforces prejudices and makes it hard to reform society. If educators merely repeat such teaching, they are of no help to their pupils or society.
Hong Kong should have national education, but the curriculum must come from ourselves, our dedicated educators and parents, and from the universally accepted moral and cultural values that underpin a healthy and united society.
Since the Basic Law guarantees a high degree of autonomy, our political leaders must maintain our high educational standards, while providing students with the necessary knowledge, acceptance and love of their Chinese heritage. Our young minds are too precious to be damaged by others.
J. Geitner, Sham Shui Po