Thu, Aug 11, 2011 - Page 5 News List

HK teachers lash out over Chinese patriotism lessons

AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s biggest teachers’ union yesterday called on officials to block a proposal to usher in mandatory classes about Chinese patriotism.

Earlier this year, the territory’s top education officials proposed making the controversial classes compulsory for school children, sparking fears of political brainwashing.

James Hon (韓連山), a spokesman for the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, rejected the proposal outright.

“This is clearly political interference [in our education system],” he said, adding that it would be “detrimental to students’ all-rounded development.”

FIFTY HOURS

Under the proposal, students would take 50 hours of lessons a year focusing on “building national harmony, identity and unity among individuals.”

There would be no exams, but classes would assess if pupils “feel happy to be Chinese” or “consider the needs of the country when planning their future,” according to guidelines posted on the Web site of the Hong Kong Education Bureau.

Advocates said it would help students “develop a sense of belonging to the motherland,” “support national sports teams” and “appreciate Chinese culture.”

UNION OPPOSED

The union, which has a membership of 80,000 — 90 percent of the terrirory’s teachers — recently released a survey which found 70 percent of its members opposed the classes.

The survey showed 67 percent were “worried” or “very worried” the subject could brainwash students.

If approved, the classes will be implemented in primary schools starting next year and in secondary schools from 2013.

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