Monday, 16 July 2012

Indoctrinating Hong Kongers

Beijing wants Hong Kong to be more Chinese
The debate over national education in Hong Kong continues to simmer with more ammunition against it when it was discovered last week that the government gave HK$72 million ($9.28 million) to two companies led by a Beijing loyalist educator to produce the education materials.

The Education Bureau confirmed that since 2007 it had given HK$12 million annually to the National Education Services Centre and National Education Centre, both led by Yeung Yiu-chung who is an educator and Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress.

And what do these educational materials say? They basically praise one-party rule, saying multi-party politics could "victimize" people, while concentrated political power could create a "selfless" government that brings stability.

There is probably hardly any talk about June 4, 1989, or if there is any coverage, it most possibly glosses over the watershed incident.

Sound familiar?

Thankfully Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim has already said that the materials are "problematic" and should not be used, while Yeung thinks the pronouncements are unjustified.

"The criticisms were unfair. Everyone must be able to have their own opinions," he said. 'We believe teachers can decide how the materials can be used."

But why is the government handing over HK$72 million in six years to these two companies in the first place, that are run by the same person?

Shouldn't we be having a proper debate about what the national education should be, in particular the content before even giving money to companies to generate content?

Then Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen promised Beijing that Hong Kong would enhance students' understanding of China through this national education.

However we need to have an open and honest discussion about what national education is, and what future generations need to know about the history of Hong Kong and China and both the good and bad. History is not one sided, but Yeung seems to think so.

Then there are teachers complaining that this national education course would overlap what is already being taught in liberal studies, Chinese history and Chinese language.

One teacher, Ng Mei-lan has criticized the manual put out by the National Education Services Centre and National Education Centre, saying it was hardly balanced.

"It cannot present both sides to allow students to develop multi-dimensional opinions," Ng said, who teaches English and used to teach liberal studies.

And then there is the issue of vague ways to assess the students' progress in the course that is hardly constructive as it relies on self-review and assessments by parents, teachers, individuals and groups outside the school.

She hoped the students would be smart enough to see through the aim of the syllabus.

"You will only be brainwashed if you are willing to be brainwashed," she said. "If students have their own thoughts and analysis, they cannot be easily brainwashed."

Perhaps the national education course should be renamed as Critical Thinking 101.

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