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National education a duty
By Wong Kwan-yue
Published: Sep 8 2011 10:27
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All State leaders who have visited Hong Kong since 1997, including President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-President Xi Jinping, mentioned the importance of national education when they were here. Their words, however, have fallen on deaf ears with some people, who believe that since the SAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy, it is up to the SAR alone to decide how or whether it embarks on a program of national education.

Admittedly, the Basic Law stipulates clearly the SAR government promulgates policies concerning the development and reform of the city's education system on its own, including management, medium of instruction, distribution of funds, exam system, the degree system and recognition of academic credentials in Article 136. But some people seem to have forgotten the spirit of the "mini-constitution".

The Basic Law states at the very beginning that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inseparable part of the People's Republic of China. In this sense, as an administrative region directly under the central government, it must fulfill the constitutional obligation of implementing national education.

The reality is, the SAR government has adopted the so-called penetration style that lets schools accomplish this in the way they see fit. Regrettably this has not been effective. Hence a survey by the Central Policy Unit of the SAR government last year found that Hong Kong youths born in the 1980s and 90s recognized themselves as Chinese nationals at a lower percentage (68.4 percent and 62.9 percent respectively) than those born in the 1970s (79.2 percent). Compared with education systems around the world Hong Kong's has done an exceptionally poor job as far as national education is concerned, which is inexcusable.

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      Many teachers and school administrators are reluctant to support the newly-announced addition of a moral and national education discipline out of concern for the extra workload. That is why this author believes there should be a three-year "warm-up" period for better acceptance and real results.

      The author is chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers. This is an excerpted translation of his commentary published in Hong Kong Commercial Daily on September 7.

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