Liberal studies curriculum stokes fires of rebellion among HK youths
Updated 23:47, 26-Nov-2019

Hong Kong's liberal studies curriculum has been a point of contention since its introduction into the city's secondary schools years ago. Many have expressed concern over its role in instigating young people to rebel against authorities.

On November 25, CGTN host Liu Xin talked to Tang Fei, the principal of Heung To Secondary School (Tseung Kwan O) in Hong Kong.

Tang pointed out the original intention with the implementation of Hong Kong's liberal studies curriculum was to reduce pressure on students and free them from rote learning; but unfortunately it has ended up acting as an instrument for political mobilization.

He explained that in Hong Kong's high school classes, a considerable portion of the content relates to sensitive political issues and political affairs. Students thus learn to think in a political way from a very young age. This can be a problem because, as he believes, many students are too young and too politically inexperienced to fully grasp these issues at an early stage.

What also happens is that students are, more often than not, taught in school arguments in opposition to the stance of the government. This means Hong Kong youngsters are more likely to get used to and internalize those arguments and become very critical of the government. For example, he said, in school exams, students are more likely to give answers in line with the opposition parties' views.

Tang believes that this issue has been brought about by the fact that school teachers have not been neutral when teaching political subjects and that some authorities, including the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority which designs education schemes and exam papers, are dominated by people who hold opinions aligned with opposition parties's.  

Therefore, the liberal studies curriculum is responsible for cultivating strong anti-establishment sentiments, says Tang.

What is also very problematic in Hong Kong civic courses is that students have learned that it is acceptable to violate the law in order to achieve their perceived just causes. Many believe that this has contributed to the widespread participation of youngsters in the city's unrest and riots in the recent anti-government protests.

While Hong Kong students have been heavily influenced by liberal studies courses, high school classes have not incorporated enough content about the mainland, which poses another problem in the city's education system. It is widely believed that an insufficient and lopsided education about the mainland has largely led to a lack of understanding about Chinese mainland as well as widespread misconceptions of it in Hong Kong society.

Tang said that worryingly, since 2012 following the resistance against implementing "moral and national education" in Hong Kong, few schools have dared to restart this initiative for fear of backlash. In the meantime, another barricade for a successful national education is that there has not been consensus over a sound syllabus that spells out how to implement such an education.

Even in classes where students learn about China, they usually only learn about its history, instead of what happened in modern times, says Tang. Without knowing China in a comprehensive way, including both its past and present, it is extremely hard to cultivate patriotic sentiments among Hong Kong people and thus to create a sense of belonging as Chinese citizens.

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