Citizenship and social development are a matter of nonchalance

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The past 15 years have been marked by dramatic changes in the education sector in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), first taught in 2009 with the first cohort of applicants in 2012, had two selling points at the time: compulsory liberal studies (LS) that combine the teaching of arts and sciences and promote independent thinking, and school-based assessment elements in all subject areas.

This new upper secondary academic structure, which was intended to promote critical thinking and independent learning, underwent an overhaul in the decade following its implementation, with the two important reforms above being reversed for political reasons. and academic. Even the very concept of critical thinking has been questioned by the Education Bureau, which changed its Chinese translation to “cautious thinking” because the pro-establishment camp has taken “critical” to “criticize,” conveying too much of negativity.

Stakeholders are concerned about how far Hong Kong education will go backwards with the replacement of LS with Citizenship and Social Development (CSD).

Pedagogically, students do not learn to deal with problems using the dichotomous approach of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’, which has existed since time immemorial; at the same time, the new subject emphasizes the development of students’ positive values ​​and attitudes. So it’s not hard to say that negatives are not encouraged in China-related matters.

In reality, “positive values” are mostly “government values”, clearly stated in the sample documents designed by HKEAA, which are largely based on official publications. Additionally, the textbooks explicitly adopt the Chinese Communist Party’s official stance, such as the assertion that “Hong Kong was never a colony”, implying that this new subject is brainwashing and falsification of the story.

What do frontline teachers think about this topic? A Mr. Cheung (pseudonym), who has been teaching history for more than 30 years, will teach CSD in the next academic year. Asked about the brainwashing, he sighed, “It’s hard to avoid. We only use official CSD teaching materials or approved textbooks. »

He said teachers had no choice but to adopt the official views. “The Chinese government has never recognized unequal treaties, so it does not recognize Hong Kong as a colony; he was only temporarily unable to resume his rule over Hong Kong. In the 1970s, the Chinese government asked the United Nations to remove Hong Kong and Macao from the list of colonies, and the UN agreed. Britain also removed the word colony from Hong Kong banknotes.

When asked if he would tell the truth about the story and point students to problematic textbooks, he replied, “I don’t think so. I’m a mediocre breadwinner who bows down to anyone who gives me a job.

He also talked about the most appropriate type of teacher to teach the subject. “In my friend’s school, the head of the CSD panel teaches mathematics and DAT (Design and Applied Technology). I think he represents the best teachers in CSD with no knowledge of the subject or commitment to history. He won’t feel sad reading the texts aloud.

Ms. Shek (pseudonym), who was a teacher for ten years, criticized the different CSD designs as impractical. ‘Review results will be reported as ‘achieved’ or ‘not achieved; » teaching and learning is boring because there is no place to teach the art of argument. Teachers will certainly teach half-heartedly. And then they will send management personnel to inspect the schools, to “hit the mountain and shake the tiger” (a Chinese idiom meaning to give a serious warning) – what a melodrama.

The curriculum states that events or topics that are illegal or immoral should not be used for inquiry learning. In fact, the family responsibility system (bao zhan dao hu), a representative policy of Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” policy, was initially illegal, and the very first village in Anhui did so. , all the villagers signed a death certificate before doing so. . If the CSD program is to be implemented verbatim, such “illegal” events should not be covered.

“Study trips to the mainland are even dumber. You can judge the attention these guys give to students by saying that only students with broken legs and serious illnesses can be exempted. Seriously, how much does it cost to get a sick note from a doctor? Or what if a student loses their mainland travel permit the day before the visit? »

LS and other HKDSE electives each have 250 hours of learning time, tested by at least two papers, while CSD has only 150 hours and one paper. When first brought to public notice, CSD was referred to as a “renamed subject”, meaning that the Education Bureau didn’t care about his name and just wanted to get rid of LS . Everyone can feel how politicized the subject is, how academic the subject can remain and how sloppy the reform is.

No wonder Stanley Ng Chau-pak of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions worries that “teachers will teach and students will learn nonchalantly.”

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

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Hans Yeung is a former director of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, specializing in history assessment. He is also a historian specializing in the modern history of Hong Kong and China. He is a producer and host of programs on Hong Kong history and a columnist for independent media. He now lives in the UK with his family. Email: [email protected]

Joel C. Hicks