'Deviations in judgment' admitted in national education bid

April 13, 2015 14:16
Michael Suen (inset) says he had misgivings about proposing national education as a school subject. The plan received strong opposition from Hongkongers.  
Photo: HKEJ

Former secretary for education Michael Suen Ming-yeung admitted there were "deviations in judgment" in the government’s attempt to make national education a standalone subject, Apple Daily reported Monday.

Suen refused to disclose who made the decision in 2010.  

He said he did not feel right about the proposal at the time but declined to say which government office issued it.

Joshua Wong Chi-fung, founder of student group Scholarism, which played a major role in opposing the proposal, said if Suen, the secretary for education at the time, did not want to roll out the controversial scheme, who might be the secret forces behind it?

Wong speculated that officials from Beijing or people close to them had plotted the move.

Suen said in a Cable TV interview Sunday that he felt national education could be introduced in other ways and it was unnecessary to implement it as a separate teaching subject.

He said he felt it could be a sensitive issue, and so the authorities consulted the education sector before the proposal was announced.

Asked why he still presented the proposal despite having reservations about it, Suen said it was not down to the education secretary to make the call, but he refused to name names, saying only that it was the stance taken within the administration.

Suen also admitted that removing Chinese history as a compulsory subject under the New Senior Secondary Curriculum during his term of office was a decision made without thorough consideration and planning.

He agreed that the increasing number of young people supporting independence for Hong Kong could be related to their lack of knowledge of Chinese history.

In 2010, then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced that national education would become a subject in the 2013/14 school year.

A strong backlash from the public culminated in a series of protests in the summer of 2012. As many as 120,000 Hongkongers surrounded government headquarters in September.

The government had to shelve the scheme in the end.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim refused to comment on Suen’s remarks as he was not a member of the government back then.

Ng said, however, that it makes perfect sense for students to be taught social ethics and given national education.

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