How politics is tarnishing Hong Kong education – SC Yeung

Education is one of the key pillars of Hong Kong’s success. However, government officials have failed to establish a good system to help local students equip themselves. Instead, they have made local schools a political tool to show their loyalty to the Communist Party.

During a visit to Beijing on Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam was reminded by Beijing’s education minister about President Xi Jinping’s instructions on the need to strengthen young people’s education on the Chinese constitution, the Basic Law and Chinese history and culture.

Minister Chen Baosheng also told Lam that his ministry would spare no effort in helping Hong Kong address all questions and respond to all requests on education. Lam said her idea for education is that the youth should have national awareness and emotional attachment to Hong Kong and an international vision.

Lam’s remarks reflected how Hong Kong education is being tarnished by politics. In fact, Hong Kong students have been facing significant pressure from their academic studies and have no time for the political goals set by Beijing. But it seems that Beijing now directly controls Hong Kong’s education policy in order to implement its education program in local schools.

From the perspective of Hong Kong and Beijing officials, education is key to incubate the students’ patriotism and loyalty to China. All other academic objectives are given a low priority.

That might explain why Lam told a recent media interview that patriotic education should start from kindergarten to nurture a sense of being Chinese, and why she appointed pro-Beijing educator Christine Choi as undersecretary of education.

The government is focused on making the next Hong Kong generation loyalists of the authorities in Beijing.

Using local schools as a political tool could harm our competitiveness in the future if the government fails to draw up a professional education policy.

What the government has done is prevent young people from having an independent thinking. The implementation of the new senior secondary school and university system in 2009 is an example of how the government failed to deliver a good education policy.

Professor Tsui Lap-chee, former vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, said the government needs to revise the current senior secondary school system by putting more focus on academic training in science and cultural subjects.

This will enable students to meet the academic requirements of certain majors in local universities, which require qualified students to have a much higher academic secondary school training.

Tsui told an interview with Commercial Radio Hong Kong that the government had forced local universities to accept the minimum requirements of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education — that is, students attain a minimum of level 3 for Chinese language and English language and level 2 for mathematics and liberal studies to qualify for the four-year undergraduate programs offered by University Grants Committee-funded institutions.

Tsui said such minimum requirements resulted in local students too focused on these four core subjects, neglecting their electives, which affected their academic roadmap to university.

Tsui said students who want to study science subjects are required to take advanced mathematics in senior secondary school to prepare for university. But they may be forced to put less focus on this due to pressure from schools to perform well in core subjects.

Such arrangement could be disadvantageous for students who might find it difficult to catch up with the university curriculum.

The new curriculum includes controversial liberal studies subjects which require students to learn about daily life including the development of Hong Kong and China, as well as science and technology. Since these subjects are included in the minimum entry requirement for local universities, many students spend much more time completing the assessment to avoid getting a failing grade in the examination.

Looking back on education reform in the past decade, we find that it has been politically, not professionally, driven.

Students are being taught patriotic elements in their liberal studies subjects in their whole school life by learning the Basic Law, the development of China after 1949 and its constitution. These add to the students’ burden, diluting their learning time for other academic subjects.

It’s time for the government to take a professional approach to the education sector for the good of future generations. The reason many parents send their children abroad to study is clear. The current education policy is completely out of touch with the times. 

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