Hong Kong said on Monday it would delay the introduction of mandatory “national education” classes, which have been criticized as a bid to brainwash children with Chinese patriotism.
Hong Kong Education Secretary Michael Suen (孫明揚) said he would follow a committee’s recommendations to delay their introduction until 2015, instead of this year as previously planned, to give schools more time to prepare.
However, he defended the idea and sought to play down concerns that children would be subjected to an hour a week of nationalist propaganda from the communist authorities in mainland China.
The classes will provide a “more systematic, holistic and sustainable learning experience that can cater for their developmental needs and cultivate their moral and national qualities through a value-based curriculum,” he said in a statement. “This subject emphasizes the nurturing of positive values and a responsible character.”
“It enables students to acquire desirable personal, moral and national qualities, enriching their life and facilitating their identity-building in the domains of family, society, the country and the world,” he said.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union last year urge the government to block the proposal, which it described as “political interference” from the mainland.
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 Education Bureau.