CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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The moral of national education

 

HONG KONG (SE): Despite the September 8 announcement by the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, that the compulsory introduction deadline of 2015 for the controversial Moral and National Education Curriculum has been scrapped, government aided schools run by school sponsoring bodies have already received a $530,000 grant to finance the introduction of the subject.

Although the compulsory date for the introduction may have been erased, it appears that the issue is, in the eyes of the government, far from dead in the water.

Technically, the current 2015 compulsory introduction date has been scrapped and Leung promised that a new one will not be introduced on his watch, but the curriculum itself, like the national security bill (Article 23), has not been scrapped, but only shelved for the time being.

While the Churches of Christ in China, which sponsors 26 secondary and 27 primary schools in the territory, has announced that it will return the subsidy money to the government, the Catholic diocese has taken a more moderate course, instructing schools to keep the grant, but not to use it.

The Education Department told school sponsoring bodies at a briefing that they are free to use what is regarded as a one-off grant to develop resources for moral education in any way they deem appropriate.

According to the briefing, the money can be used on developing courses on sex education, general life education of even religious education, any area that contributes to the development of the moral fibre of or a sense of values in students.

“Schools should feel no pressure that they might be asked to return the money to the government for not launching the subject,” Anna Wu Hung-yuk, the chairperson of the committee set up by the government for the implementation of the curriculum, was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying on September 22.

While government officials remained largely silent on the matter of content of the curriculum during the debate that raged around the mass street demonstrations over the past few weeks, the national element of the proposed curriculum was continually up in lights to the almost complete exclusion of the moral aspect.

Nevertheless, Education Department officials said at the briefing that it is not foreseen that history, facts or figures would be taught within the proposed curriculum, but rather it should be a forum where students can reflect on and discuss what they have learned in other classes in the context of moral values.

As a forum for developing the moral perspective of young people, reflecting on their own story as Hong Kong people, which many believe to be a lacuna in the collective consciousness of people in the territory, could prove to be constructive.

It is an area of identity that the government must pay attention to and something people should be conscious of, as it contains the story of how Hong Kong has expressed itself over more than a century as a good citizen in the neighbourhood, state and the world.

A natural starting point for such discussion is perhaps the one country two systems under which the majority of school students today have grown up.

People in Hong Kong have expressed their love for the motherland both before and during the 15 years since the former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty.

It has been shown in events like the Tiananmen Square anniversary vigils at Victoria Park, which at a superficial glance may appear critical, but are a profound expression of care and concern for the motherland.

It is essential that the manner in which people choose to express themselves as citizens of neighbourhood, state and the worldwide community, as well as members of a family, be recognised, affirmed and taken into account.

This is something that any government must listen to, as we live in an era where rampant patriotism is prompting resentment and even hatred of other countries or peoples, and reflection on what are appropriate, or moral relationships within families, within neighbourhoods, within the state and the whole world would seem more necessary than ever.

 

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