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Church says no to revised school subject

When civic turns to national, educators cry foul

A kindergarten teacher explains the meaning of Chinese national flag to students A kindergarten teacher explains the meaning of Chinese national flag to students
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • September 21, 2011
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A proposal to introduce Moral and National Education (MNE) as a compulsory school subject has met a negative response from educationalists and commentators.

The diocesan Catholic Education Office, which is Hong Kong’s largest school authority, has been especially critical, describing MNE as “going backwards” and expressing concerns over what it calls the “hard-selling” of patriotism.

The plan is currently being scrutinized after a four-month public consultation. In a written statement to the assessors, in which it openly disagreed with the proposal, “enhancing national quality is an important requirement of students’ holistic development. But this so-called national quality seems to involve a blind and absolute support for the country.”

“Patriotism is only one of the values. The Catholic Church regards respect for human dignity, pursuit for meaning in life, holiness and transcendence as values that are more fundamental,” it continued.

The new subject would replace the existing Moral and Civic Education module, which has been in use since 2001. Many schools currently integrate moral and civic education topics into their regular subjects and activities.

But if the new proposal is passed, MNE will be taught as a separate subject once or twice a week, starting next year. It would aim to develop students’ positive values and attitudes to personal, family, social and national life.

The Education Office’s Francis Chan Nai-kwok expressed a further worry that Catholic schools might have to reduce Religious Education classes to make room for MNE, as school timetables are usually very tight.

One Catholic primary school teacher added the opinion that “local schools are already teaching students to love our country. I think nurturing them with critical thinking on China’s current affairs is more important.”

As the largest school-sponsoring body in Hong Kong, the Catholic Church runs run 111 primary and 87 secondary schools, with 154,000 students, out of 572 primary and 533 secondary schools in the territory.

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