An Open Letter from the HKAHSS Executive Committee published in the newspaper regarding the development of the subject Chinese History


SingDao Daily  3 Nov 2016

An Open Letter from the HKAHSS Executive Committee published in the newspaper regarding the development of the subject Chinese History 中文原文

The recent development of the Chinese History curriculum has aroused controversial discussion in the general public where criticisms have not simply come from the education sector, but also from politicians and at least 500 parents, who have expressed their concerns. The HKAHSS is wary that this will turn into yet another saga for political wrestling, which will inevitably affect students’ learning and over-shadow the good will of the proposed curriculum reform in 2016.

The crux of the discussion regarding Chinese History curriculum mainly boils down to whether the subject should be implemented as an independent and compulsory subject in the junior secondary levels. In that regard, the HKAHSS has the following ivews:

  1. Chinese History in junior secondary schools is already an independent subject in a majority of schools

The majority of the front-line Chinese History teachers are all puzzled by the proposal of introducing Chinese History as an independent and compulsory subject. In the current school curriculum, there are 2 subjects taking care of history education, namely Chinese History and World History. Very few countries have similar practice due to our unique background.

According to the Education Bureau, approximately 80% of the junior secondary schools are now offering Chinese History as an independent subject while the remaining 20% have measures to incorporate Chinese History into the subject of World History or Humanities. This simply indicates the difference in handling of subject contents and there is no need to further discuss whether it is an independent subject or not.

Both Macau and Mainland China integrate Chinese History and World History into the History curriculum. That means Chinese History is not an independent subject. In fact, this arrangement is very similar to the practice in local schools not opting Chinese History as an independent subject.

It is highly advisable that the Education Bureau respect schools’ professional autonomy and decisions on how to arrange the syllabus of both World History and Chinese History in the junior secondary level. It is extremely undesirable for the government to take any measures that would undermine the professional autonomy of schools and force them to work within unreasonable parameters.

  1. The correlation between  a drop in the number of students taking Chinese History as an elective in senior secondary level and Chinese History not being offered as a compulsory subject in the junior secondary level cannot be justified or established. 

It is ridiculous to say that a decrease in the number of senior secondary students taking Chinese History as an elective is due to the fact that there is no Chinese History subject in the junior secondary level. Truth be told: how many secondary schools have Economics, Business, Accounting and Financial Studies in the junior secondary level? The number of senior secondary students taking the said courses is often more than those who study Chinese History. Is it true that by relying on firm administrative means that we can force secondary students to take Chinese History as an elective? There are many reasons why students do not take Chinese History. It is crucial to figure out a palatable approach to appeal to students with a creative revamping of Chinese History curriculum, teaching and learning.

  1. It is undesirable to hamper Professionalism in education

Schools should be able to decide whether or not to offer Chinese History as an independent subject or combine it with either World History or Humanities based on their needs and assessment. No matter what approaches schools adopt, their consideration will centre on students’ benefits.

Education is never a static model as students’ needs and abilities vary. It is the most desirable for schools to exercise professional autonomy in devising the curriculum while the public should also have faith and respect for schools.

The government should be very careful about the issue because without thorough planning, chaos will result when other curriculum contents such as Moral Education Basic Law Education and Careers and Life Planning need to be introduced as an independent and compulsory subject under the same rationale. .

  1. To yield promising results in learning, reform in  teaching pedagogies and learning strategies is inevitable

Whether or not a curriculum is successful depends on both the learning content and the teaching approach. To help students enjoy studying Chinese History, forcing them to take up this subject, giving them mere chalk-and-talk or implementing Chinese History as a compulsory subject will not work. Only by keeping abreast of the latest current events and reform in teaching pedagogies will make learning Chinese History more engaging and worthwhile.

  1. To revamp the curriculum calls forth thorough deliberation and planning

There is no doubt that a thorough deliberation is a must when determining whether or not to implement a specific subject as a compulsory subject. Factors include students’ learning time; their workload; staff deployment and the development of students’ knowledge, skill and attitude to promote their all-round development.

To introduce a subject in the curriculum, we need to take note of the compatibility of subjects offered in schools. If a decision is made just out of a government order, it is indeed a regression. We expect everyone to place the benefits of students and intellectual open-mindedness as priorities. 

  1. Respect should be given to front-line teachers whose views should be carefully contemplated.

We respect the government’s efforts in the last three years in coming up with the consultation document with the help of a group of distinguished scholars and enthusiastic frontline teachers. At the same time, it is essential for all to follow the well-established consultation channels and procedures. Comprehensive feedbacks should be collected and well deliberated before a decision is made. It is of paramount importance to avoid any political hindrance in the decision-making process on education.

Studying History can give students an understanding of their society and the past. It also helps them foster critical-thinking skills. It is important to bear in mind that politics should never interfere with the learning of History. Besides, Chinese History is not the same as  Nationalism and Patriotic Education. Otherwise history education will be contaminated by this political burden.

We expect different sectors to let go their subjective opinions and explore in greater depth the nature and further development of history education.


星島日報報導  3 11 2016

香港中學校長會執委會對中國歷史科發展的一​些看法 English-version