Parents in Hong Kong must feel like they’re on a roller-coaster ride this year, as Beijing increasingly displays its intention to intervene in the city’s education system to encourage youth to be more “patriotic”.
Teachers are the latest target, and parents could be forgiven for asking whether Hong Kong is still a good place for their children’s education.
Executive councilor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, who was in charge of the city’s education policies for several years after the handover in 1997, now has a new idea aimed at prospective teachers.
Law suggested that all new teachers spend a month across the border learning about the country before they become qualified to teach at Hong Kong schools.
She said the city needs to rely on young teachers’ efforts to imbue children with a stronger sense of national identity.
While Law’s comments may not represent the official views of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, a pro-Beijing politician raising such an idea in the mainland media is worth paying attention to, since her comments could become policy some time in the future.
While Hong Kong parents spend a lot each month to have their kids join a wide range of extracurricular activities — such as music, calligraphy, arts and sports — in an effort to help them to beef up their personal profile, government officials focus on the children’s brains.
They want our kids to love China, to love the rule of the Communist Party and to love Hong Kong under Chinese rule.
Is that education or brainwashing?
Hong Kong parents choose a school based on the experience of its teachers and its track record of outstanding performance in public examinations.
They believe children shouldn’t be put under political pressure and used as a tool for the government to maintain the stability of society.
In school, students should enjoy the broadest freedom to absorb new knowledge and to incubate their critical and independent thinking, rather than learn to be a loyalist to the Communist Party.
Watching the rise of student groups such as Scholarism and the outbreak of the Occupy movement last year, the central and Hong Kong governments decided that the root of the problem may be not among the students but among teachers and the curriculum instead.
That may be why Law made her comments on teacher training in an attempt to introduce politically correct education to Hong Kong schools.
Law implied that young teachers can play a leading role in pushing pro-Beijing national education, since they grew up after the handover.
She thinks they should have less difficulty teaching the modern history of China than senior teachers who were educated under the British colonial government, which Beijing loyalists consider biased against the country.
If Law’s wish is to be fully realized, all the teachers in Hong Kong should be members of the Communist Party.
Teachers won’t need to think independently, and their employment could be based on the depth of their knowledge of the Communist Party and their personal network within it, rather than their academic qualifications.
Is that a Hong Kong-style education?
Many parents from across the border seek school places for their kids in Hong Kong because they want to avoid mainland-style education, which focuses on political correctness.
But it seems that the Hong Kong government has no desire to uphold the city’s unique educational system, since it is said to be planning a closer partnership with mainland education authorities to implement a politically correct curriculum for Hong Kong schools.
Ming Pao Daily reported Monday that an official of the Communist Youth League, the youth arm of the Communist Party, admitted that Beijing and Hong Kong are working together to introduce a new Chinese history curriculum for Hong Kong students, to give them a correct perspective on modern Chinese history.
And they also plan to force Hong Kong students to visit Yan’an, the birthplace of the communist revolution, to understand the party’s glorious history and how it rose to rule the country.
While Premier Li Keqiang has stressed the importance of the “one country two systems” principle, Beijing’s actions tell us it does not respect this principle and is trying to destroy the uniqueness of Hong Kong.
Education is the new battlefield for Beijing’s campaign to transform Hong Kong into a Chinese city like any in the mainland.
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