Although the opposition against the proposed moral and national education (MNE) has died down a lot after the government relinquished its implementation, the dispute has not been resolved. If the tear between the government and the opposing parties is not mended, a bigger crisis may loom up.
The escalation of the MNE from a curriculum issue to a social movement gave us important lessons. A review may help prevent similar incidents from happening again. Here are the key points for us to consider:
- The government failed to grasp the public sentiment fully and was not sensitive to the voice of the opposition. Its judgement on the positioning and implementation of the MNE greatly fell short of public expectation.
- Some government officials took a tough stance and failed to listen to the opinions of the education sector. They were unable to respond and defuse public concerns and resentments. Their uncompromising approach intensified public discontent and distrust.
- The lack of proper communication and mutual trust widened the disparity between the government and the public, making thorough discussions between them impossible. Policy consultations became superficial and adoption of opinions selective. In the end, the matter became a purely political issue that weakened the government’s authority and esteem.
- As the debates prolonged, society became more divided and the harmonious relationships among school sponsoring bodies, school councils, principals, teachers, students, parents and alumni were affected. Not only was the people’s recognition of their national identity not improved, healthy development of civic and national education and the normal operation of schools were disrupted.
Develop a national education that suits Hong Kong people’s sentiment
In view of the divided public opinions on MNE and the dilemmas in the education sectors and society at large, we must revisit MNE from an education professional angle and make reference to international studies and experience. The HKAHSS has done a lot of researches on the subject to find a MNE scheme that suits Hong Kong. In the meeting of the Committee on the Initiation of Moral and National Education Subject on 27 September, the writer made some recommendations on behalf of the HKAHSS to Ms Anna Wu, the chairperson of the Committee. Here are the main points suggested:
- Hong Kong should make reference to international experience and promote a contemporary citizenship education that encompasses moral, civic and national elements. The curriculum must be wide enough to enable students of different backgrounds, age, ability and interests to learn, explore and reflect on issues related to multiple levels of the role of citizenship.
- In response to globalization, citizenship education should cover not only civil society, ethnicity and country but also citizenship in the international community. The global perspective will help our youngsters appreciate and respect multiculturalism and pluralism to embrace the challenges of cosmopolitanism.
- To enable our students to understand and live out the role of a citizen both rationally and emotionally, the contents of citizenship education should cover citizenship as status, citizenship as volition and feeling, and citizenship as competence and practice.
- As a part of the citizenship education, state of the national education must go beyond narrow ethnicity and nationalism to allow students to appreciate their country’s conditions, history, peoples, cultures, strengths and weaknesses to enable them to think critically and develop a democratic and constructive patriotism.
Expectation on the government
The government must take action to resolve the present dilemma, restore communication and regain trust from the people. We hope the government will announce the withdrawal of the MNE Curriculum Guide. In its announcement, the government should make it clear that all schools, whether they have implemented the MNE subject or not, are free to decide how to deliver the diversified MNE programmes according to the needs of their schools.
Before stipulating a new MNE Curriculum Guide, the EDB can adapt the 2008 MNE Curriculum Guide and use the improved version as a basis to develop a new MNE framework for schools’ reference. At the same time, the EDB should provide support such as teacher training, teaching staff and administrative resources to schools. As to MNE teaching materials, in view of the tensions in society, the government should not take part in their production, but play a supportive role only.
It is our sincere hope that the government can communicate and work with the education and other sectors with an open mind and realistic attitude to produce a MNE curriculum that will inspire our young people to be caring, embracing and committed.