Hong Kong students can fulfil requirement for citizenship and social development subject with 1-day trip to mainland China

  • The current 50,000 Secondary Five pupils are the first batch to study the new subject which requires them to join at least one tour to the mainland
  • Education minister is ‘optimistic’ that cross-border students will be able to use rapid antigen test results when resuming in-person classes at Hong Kong campuses

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Senior secondary students will be able to do one-day tours to mainland China to fulfil the requirements of the revamped liberal studies subject. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong’s education authorities will offer a new option of a one-day trip to the Greater Bay Area for senior secondary students to fulfil a compulsory requirement for a core subject. This will save them from having to stay overnight in mainland China, according to the education minister.

But Secretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin said there would not be an exemption as requested by some education associations who said they did not have time to prepare and were concerned about the Covid-19 situation in mainland China.

The compulsory tours are required for the revamped liberal studies subject, citizenship and social development. The tours have not started since the requirement was launched in the last school year because of travel restrictions during the pandemic.

Hong Kong school heads call for delaying mandatory student trips to mainland China

The Subsidised Secondary School Council on Wednesday welcomed the new arrangement and foresaw more schools would choose one-day trips.

The minister said education officials would test the one-day route before school tours started in April to ensure it was safe and smooth. She added there should be sufficient time for schools to prepare for the trip over the next three months.

Choi said schools that opted for tours outside Guangdong could arrange them during the summer holiday.

“There is more than one year to go before the 2024 HKDSE [Diploma of Secondary Education] exams start. I do not see any reason they can’t complete the tours before then,” she said.

Secretary for Education Christine Choi. Photo: Yik Yeung -man

Citizenship and social development, the new core subject for senior secondary students, was introduced to replace liberal studies. Its syllabus focuses on national security, identity, lawfulness and patriotism. It was revamped following accusations that the curriculum was radicalising youngsters.

The current 50,000 Secondary Five students are the first batch to study the new subject since it was launched in the last school year. They are required to join at least one tour to the mainland.

Out of 21 possible routes and itineraries the bureau provided in July, eight lasted for two days, 10 for three days, one for four days and the rest for five days. Schools have submitted their choices.

Lee Yi-ying, chairwoman of the Subsidised Secondary School Council, said principals generally welcomed the new arrangement. “I think more schools would switch to this one-day trip as it is a safe option,” she said.

Cross-border parents’ group fears chaotic return to in-person classes in Hong Kong

Meanwhile, the minister said she was “optimistic” that when students living on the mainland resumed in-person classes at Hong Kong campuses, they would be allowed to present negative results from rapid antigen tests instead of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests as currently required by the mainland authorities for crossing the border.

But she said they still needed to finalise the details with mainland authorities.

Choi said they were also seeking to exempt the cross-border students’ parents or nannies from the need to compete for the quotas currently applied to other travellers.

There are nearly 21,000 cross-border students, and 75 per cent of them did not stay in Hong Kong during the pandemic. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Primary One to Four cross-border pupils use a code-scanning system for immigration clearance at Hong Kong border checkpoints. Choi said this system would probably be extended to all students, while the renewal of their travel documents would be expedited.

The government said the cross-border students were expected to be allowed back to campus after the Lunar New Year holiday. These pupils have been attending classes online for nearly three years.

Choi said she expected secondary school students to return to campus on February 1, followed by primary and kindergarten students in mid-February.

There are nearly 21,000 cross-border students, and 25 per cent of them stayed in Hong Kong during the pandemic. Among those who live on the mainland, there are 7,000 secondary students, 13,000 primary pupils and 900 kindergarten pupils.

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