| Global Times | 2012-7-20 0:50:03
By Duan Wuning
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU) is calling on authorities in Hong Kong to cancel a trial patriotic education course that would use a 34-page textbook featuring controversial content.
The book, entitled "The China Model" and compiled by the Hong Kong Patriotic Education Services Center and the Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, aims to equip students in the special administrative region with patriotic knowledge.
According to the official plan, all primary students will be required to use the book during a patriotic education class scheduled this September and junior high school students during the 2015/16 school year.
Media reports in Hong Kong said the book introduces students to the mainland political system and features officials in a favorable light.
Chen Junli, professor at the Center for Studies of Hong Kong, Macao and Pearl River Delta of the Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, told the Global Times Thursday that patriotic education is necessary for students in the region.
"Students in Hong Kong had colonial education, which resulted in the fact that they don't have a national consciousness. This class will help them know more about the Chinese mainland," Chen said.
Ji Shuoming, a well-known commentator, also agreed that such education is a must.
"Other countries, like the US, also require their citizens to have basic knowledge that gives them a sense of patriotism," said Ji, who suggested that authorities could train teachers first so that they could get a better idea of what kind of supplementary knowledge to provide their students with.
"Authorities have been mulling the launching of this courses since the handover of Hong Kong to China from the UK in 1997," Chen said.
However, critics of the book argue that it glosses over issues like the control of online content and food safety scandals, said the local media.
"The public was fine with the idea until the book, which is not so objective, was distributed to schools, and mostly focuses on the bright side. That's what fueled the controversy," Chen added.
The HKPTU declined to comment when reached by the Global Times Thursday, but confirmed that local residents would take to the street on July 29 to again demand authorities cancel the course before the new semester.
In previous media reports, the HKPTU said nearly 40 percent of the region's elementary schools will not teach the patriotic education course this coming fall semester, and called on authorities to suspend the course and consult public opinion. It also wants the focus of the course to shift from patriotism to citizen education.
Hong Kong's secretary for education, Ng Hak-kim, was quoted by the local newspaper Ming Pao as saying earlier this month that despite disapproval from the public the course will not be affected, but teachers and schools can select different reference materials.
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong said on Wednesday that some 100 church schools in the region will not offer the course, while the local Education Bureau said it has set up a three-year transition period before the course is fully implemented.
Chen suggested that authorities should ask prominent teachers that are known as objective scholars to compile the content, which would make it more acceptable for Hong Kong people.
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