CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Church pushes for moral and civic education not national and moral

 HONG KONG (SE): A consultation paper on the introduction of a course on National and Moral Education in all schools in Hong Kong, put out by the Education Bureau of the territory government on May 13 this year, has drawn criticism from the Catholic Education Board in a response lodged on the last day of the consultation period, August 31.
The Church response, drafted by a panel and compiled by the Catholic Education Office, points out that the current paper retreats from the position taken in a 2002 document on Fundamental Education Curriculum, which says that the school should not impose a national sentiment on students, but work to nurture a natural sense of love of country.
It notes that the current paper has moved away from this line to proposing schools develop in students a channeled response towards party and government rather than country, saying that this type of national identity is an essential element of national development.
The consultation paper suggests a good citizen is one who shows love for country by giving 100 per cent support to government policies and national aspirations. However, the Church response argues that this is far too narrow, as country is only one element in what goes into making up the identity of a person or citizen.
While the Church response agrees that love of country is a value that should be nurtured in all students, it points out that they are also global citizens. It argues that schools should prepare young people to become global citizens with a deep love for their own country.
The Church response stresses that citizen is not a person’s only identity, as several factors go into describing identity. It also notes that patriotism cannot be isolated from a sense of the sacredness of life, which is a fundamental value in human existence.
Education should help the student to understand the meaning of life and the importance of the search for the transcendent, by searching for love, truth and beauty. The Church response describes these values as the most fundamental in the formation of young people, and says that without them, they cannot be truly patriotic.
The Church argues that the consultation paper places the welfare of the state or government ahead that of its citizens, whereas, it is the state and the government that exist for the wellbeing of the citizens, not the citizens for the welfare of the state.
It points out that people live in a number of domains, neighbourhood, community, wider society, country and ultimately, the world; and young people need to be prepared to see and understand the importance of all of all five, whereas the thesis put forward by the consultation paper seeks to limit their ambit to country only.
The Church maintains that the stress on moral and national in the consultation paper would be better balanced if expressed and addressed as moral and civic.
The drafting committee from the Catholic Board of Education argues that people in Hong Kong are not unpatriotic, as seems to be implied in the consultation paper. They say that historically, Hong Kong people have shown they have a special way of loving country.
Even as a British colony, Hong Kong has always shown a willingness to invest in the home villages and cities on the mainland and assist people in addressing social problems and the development of financial and community infrastructure.
The willingness to embrace refugees from China back in the 1950s is also a manifestation of people’s love for the mainland.
The committee notes that because Hong Kong is still a special administrative region of China, any education programme on moral and civic values should be promoted in the context of one country two systems, not just transplanted from the mainland itself.
However, Francis Chan Nai-kwok explained that because of the timeline set for the introduction of the course, it would be impossible to prepare and publish a syllabus and text books to meet the schedule for its planned primary school debut in 2012.
He says that this would leave little option other than to follow the Macau example of importing the textbooks directly from the mainland, and the short timeframe prescribed seems to be designed to force the issue on transplanting mainland-style patriotic education.
The Church response adds that to achieve a rounded moral and civic education programme, as well as engender a true patriotic love of country, Chinese students should learn about the development of modern China.
“It may not always by good,” Chan notes, “but students need to learn to ask questions like will developments lead to the promotion of human dignity, the fair distribution of wealth or paying more attention to the needs of the weak.”
He adds, “Teachers should have this perspective in encouraging students to understand what is going on in China.”
The response from the Church to the government notes that the official consultation paper emphasises only the glorious achievements of the Chinese state, with no attention paid to the dark side and, without a balanced perspective of the reality of a country, it is impossible to develop a genuine patriotism in citizens.
The consultation paper is also criticised as lacking implementation guidelines in areas like proposed class time, as well as being vague on whether it is an independent subject or not.
Chan explains that in the 1990s, it was argued that civic education is not an independent subject and this became policy in 1996 under the British. He notes that now, it appears as if the Hong Kong government wants to make it an independent subject and compulsory, although from an academic point of view, it lacks content.
He adds that a subject syllabus cannot rely solely on what is imposed by government, but needs input from civic and non-governmental organisations and, he adds, “If we look at the practical difficulties, it is impossible to prepare teachers to handle the course in the short time proposed.”
Also, what may be loosely referred to as liberal thinking groups are not represented on the ad hoc committee that developed the consultation paper.

It points out that people live in a number of domains, neighbourhood, community, wider society, country and ultimately, the world; and young people need to be prepared to see and understand the importance of all of all five




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