Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Learning to be Patriots

As if they don't have enough to study already, now Hong Kong students are going to take a course on how to appreciate China.

The curriculum will make national education a compulsory subject for all schoolchildren in Hong Kong from next year onwards.

This is all because Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen promised to improve Hong Kong students' knowledge of China in several policy addresses after President Hu Jintao said the children should have a better understanding of the nation when he visited the city in 2007. Tsang must have been really embarrassed or is giving Hu big face.

The proposal says schools should free up 50 hours of a school year, or about two lessons a week for this nationalism course. Described as an identity-building approach, students will learn to sing the national anthem, attend flag-raising ceremonies, understand the Basic Law, support national sports teams and understand Chinese culture.

The course will also include civic education and social etiquette such as learning to be polite and keep promises.

Students will not be tested on what they have learned from the course; it will be subjectively decided by the teachers, parents and classmates. The criteria? Whether the pupils feel proud to be Chinese or consider the needs of their country when planning for the future.

This proposal of the curriculum seems so ad hoc -- how does nationalism fit in with being polite? What does a child learn from attending flag-raising ceremonies other than being annoyed at having to wake up at the crack of dawn and sing the Chinese national anthem? Or know every single person on the Chinese national diving team?

It seems like a hastily conceived course without much thought of how this will benefit students in any way, except perhaps knowing more about the Basic Law and how the current detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is completely illegal.

And do students really need to think about China when thinking about their future? All they care about is getting into a good university wherever that is and after that a decent job.

Democratic Party legislator Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education sector, says the curriculum amounts to political brainwashing.

"It is more important to give students a comprehensive and true picture of China," Cheung said. "National education should not be teaching students to toe the Communist Party's line, but to understand universal values."

Another critic, Ho Hon-kuen, vice chairman of Education Convergency said: "If it is not an open examination subject, students will not take it seriously."

Chief curriculum development officer Dr Cheung Wing-hung rejected the criticism. "The design of the curriculum is to encourage students to look at an event from different perspectives before building up their own values," he said. "Teachers are free to discuss any topics in class."

Surely he wouldn't be too pleased if teachers talked about the Tiananmen Square massacre in class and how that has affected how the Chinese government rules over its people today.

As expected, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union is concerned the new course will increase the teachers' workloads.

The proposed curriculum is under consultation until August 31.

Hopefully parents and teachers will be up in arms about this silly curriculum proposal so that it goes back to the drawing board.

Learning to appreciate Chinese culture is a good thing, like poetry or playing Chinese music instruments, but not when students are learning bits of information that only seem to be geared at appreciating the Party than the country.

1 comment:

  1. so long it is NOT the little red book type of education i think it should be ok. but it remains to be seen once the course syllabus comes out.