National education in Hong Kong

Anger as Education Bureau postpones release of national education report

Bureau misses its own deadline for revealing consultation findings, citing need for legal advice

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 9:30am

Education authorities have indefinitely postponed releasing the report of a consultation done last year on national education, citing a need to seek legal advice.

The Education Bureau held the consultation from May to August last year, and promised to reveal its findings on September 20, including how many submissions agreed that national education should be compulsory.

Human rights activists and a legislator responded angrily to the delay.

Andrew Shum Wai-nam, an activist who led a campaign against national education, said the government might pay the price for withholding information. "It will only lead to more people taking to the streets as they don't trust the government."

On August 1 this year, South China Morning Post, using the Code on Access to Information, asked to see the findings from what the bureau said was a wide-ranging dialogue among officials, parents, schools and teachers.

The consultation led officials to propose a three-year preparation period for the subject at all public schools. Officials said the public supported the policy, but refused to release the report.

In its initial reply to the Post, the bureau said an answer could not be given until September 20.

It wrote back again on September 19, saying it needed to "seek legal advice" and trace "various sorts of records", adding that it would miss a 51-day limit to respond to the inquiry.

In contrast, the government has released detailed findings of other public consultations, including for the implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Under the code, government departments should disclose information 10 days after a request is made, or within 51 days in exceptional cases. But the code is not a law, so it is difficult to challenge delays or non-disclosures.

Lawmaker-elect Albert Ho Chun-yan said the Democratic Party would raise the issue in the Legislative Council.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying scrapped the requirement for mandatory teaching of national education earlier this month after a massive protest and hunger strikes in front of the government headquarters.