From the FT for interest Beijing wrestles for control of Hong Kong’s classrooms

08 Feb

Beijing wrestles for control of Hong Kong’s classrooms
Authorities are investigating schoolteachers for stirring up their pupils and censoring the curriculum.

The authorities are blaming the education system because of the high number of students that were involved in the anti government protests. ‘Liberal Studies’ are particularly in focus as the article says; 'The subject aims to better prepare students in late high school for the modern workforce by teaching them to think for themselves, especially about current affairs.’ It was made a compulsory subject in Hong Kong by the SAR government with the slogan “It benefits you for life” but obviously that is no longer the case in Hong Kong.

Interestingly 'A study commissioned by the government’s Central Policy Unit in 2016 concluded that liberal studies had minimal influence on students’ civic and political opinions. But many students said the subject had stimulated their interest in social and political issues.’

Key areas no longer mentioned; Tiananmen Square protests, segregation powers under the common law system in Hong Kong and the Umbrella movement. Downplayed are China’s pollution problems and the recent workers rights issues.

It would appear that the government is intending to impose even stricter regulations after a task force last month recommended 'the authorities conduct compulsory screening of all textbooks and retrain teachers.’ Carrie Lam said if teachers were spreading “wrong messages to promote misunderstanding about the nation . . . then that becomes a very serious matter”. Maybe equally or more worrying if they are spreading the truth.

Teachers and students are all worried. The teachers for their jobs and the students for writing honest answers as one said “I am worried about my grades if I write something the teacher disapproves of.”

A good education system will teach students how to lean any subject and that is important. The fact that the internet is freely available in Hong Kong means that whilst the government may censor the text books, enquiring minds can still find the full information on line via the internet. The real worry for Hong Kong will come when restrictions are placed on that.

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