CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Catholics join call to scrap national education


HONG KONG (SE) :  Two Catholic organisations joined the estimated 90,000 people who turned out in the streets of Hong Kong on July 29 to call for the scrapping of the government National and Moral Education Curriculum set to come into effect in territory schools in September this year.

The Civil Alliance Against National Education, made up of students, teachers, the Justice and Peace Commission and various Protestant groups; together with the Catholic Education Monitor, a group formed to check on how Catholic schools handle the controversial subject, both fielded prominent groups in the march from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices.

A statement from the alliance says that real national education respects democracy and independent thinking.

It also allows students to make their own decisions on how much of a sense of belonging they should have for their country.

However, it notes that the proposed programme is not conducive to education, especially since there has been no disclosure on criteria used to monitor bodies that are promoting national education and preparing teacher notes and materials.

The alliance points out that an appendix to the curriculum consultation paper advises teachers to question students if they judge they have insufficient feeling for their country.

The statement points out that it is impossible to quantify patriotic sentiment and calls any attempt to do so thwart with bias.

It also notes that the government has been allocating over $100 million annually to promoting national education, but only spending $300,000 on human rights education.

It notes that this reflects a lack of balance, especially since a human rights education task force, that was set up in 2005, was scrapped two years later after failing to launch any programmes or projects during its short stay on the payroll.

“This shows a lack of commitment on behalf of the government to promoting respect for human rights, democracy, freedom and other universal values in civic education,” the alliance says.

The alliance is calling on the government to scrap its plan to introduce the national education programme and go back to the drawing boards and revamp its existing curriculum on civic education.

It adds that it would be more constructive to concentrate on encouraging students to bring a critical eye to their thinking and help them to develop a greater ability to analyse what is happening in society.

While the diocese of Hong Kong announced that it will not formally adopt the national education programme for the time being, the education monitor said it believes some Catholic schools are planning to use some materials produced by groups affiliated with political parties that focus only on national flags, the national anthem and even things like the calligraphy exploits of Mao Zedong.

“Such so-called national education only covers certain trappings of the nation, but doess not touch on the people. This is out of line with Catholic teaching,” a statement from the group says.

The Catholic Education Monitor is calling on Catholic schools to be firm in rejecting the National and Moral Education Curriulum and to concentrate on strengthening their existing moral and civic education curriculums, as well as focussing more on giving students an understanding of Catholic social teaching.

The group expressed the hope that the younger generations will be nurtured to be upright and caring, rather than indifferent and submissive to outside influences.


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