Francis Chan Nai-kwok of the Catholic Education Office
Diocesan schools will not include a new civics course in the academic year beginning in September, the Hong Kong diocese’s Catholic Education Office said yesterday.
The local Catholic Church is the third school-sponsoring body to suspend the launching of the new Moral and National Education course, which replaces the existing Moral and Civic Education module. Two Christian denominations, the Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Church) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, also announced this week that they would not launch the class.
The three bodies manage about 30 percent of the schools in Hong Kong.
The Catholic Church does not stand against courses on nationalism, and civics is already included in Catholic schools’ religious and moral classes, Francis Chan Nai-kwok of the Catholic Education Office told reporters.
Catholic schools require all students to develop “a passion for Hong Kong, a heart for China and a vision for the world,” Chan said.
The Hong Kong Education Bureau proposed the introduction of the class in primary schools this September and in secondary schools by September next year. The subject will become compulsory three years later.
A teaching handbook published by the pro-Beijing National Education Services Centre, which is funded by the Education Bureau, is controversial for allegedly praising one-party rule in China.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said yesterday the newly proposed subject is designed to encourage students to think independently and from various perspectives. He admitted the text of the teaching handbook is biased but said it was misleading to construe the handbook as the whole of the course curriculum.
When it was announced last fall, retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong criticized the course, saying, “Love of our country is not identical to love of the party.” Cardinal Zen warned against bringing up the next generation with an extreme or wrong kind of nationalism.
An outline of the nationalist course shows that students would be required to study the calligraphy of Mao Zedong in an attempt to learn “the perseverance and hard-working spirit of Chairman Mao.”
Cardinal deplores education proposal