Hong Kong schools are still on a learning curve when it comes to national education. A recent row over a flag-raising event on campus is a case in point. The suspension of 14 students from class for three days for skipping the ceremony has raised questions over the guidelines and punishment for acts of disrespect in relation to the national flag and anthem. Greater clarity is called for. Unlike the occasional booing of the anthem at football matches, which is a phenomenon that reflects the city’s political division and troubled past, the episode at the St Francis Xavier’s School in Tsuen Wan looks more like a case of inadvertence on the part of the students concerned. One said he was having breakfast in the playground at the time and he soon walked over to the ceremony upon hearing the anthem. But he was reportedly stopped by the principal and was punished among others for “disrespecting” the event. Whether a three-day suspension is appropriate is a matter of judgment. Parents were told the students were punished for “breaking school rules” because they had failed to turn up for the assembly, at which the flag-raising ceremony is held once a week. But the punishment was also seen by some as excessive. The Education Bureau would only say schools should handle the matter in a reasonable, fair and lawful manner, with a view to helping students make improvements. There are laws prohibiting the insulting and misuse of the national flag, emblems and anthem. While probably no one would say leaving one’s breakfast unfinished to attend a weekly school flag-raising ceremony amounts to a criminal offence, there is a need for better education not only for students on the importance of respecting national symbols, but also for schools in handling such situations. Together with other stakeholders in society, schools and students are still in a learning mode when it comes to patriotism and national security. While there is no shortage of guidelines and ample teaching materials about the national flag, emblems, or anthem in the school curriculum, it is still a learning process for both the education sector and wider society.