Parents and reporters stand against “national education”

[Oct 2012 - The Journalist]

[中文](Helen Wong, Reporter of Ming Pao Weekly) There were several “special programs” during this year’s summer vacation. From the July 1 demonstration demanding an investigation into of the death of Li Wang-yang in China through the July 29 anti-national education rally to the September 1 opening ceremony for civil education, all of my five family members went out to show our support. My third child, 1.5 years old, set a record: after taking part for the first in the July 1 demonstration, took to the streets three times in just two months.

Ming Pao Weekly reporter Helen Wong and her children, Abbie, Ashley
and Amos. (Helen  Wong Photo)
The difficulties in taking three children to a demonstration is unimaginable. My family is completely dedicated to the cause because we feel its imminence. My eldest daughter, Abbie, is going to grade 2 in a government primary school, which comes directly under the purview of the Education Bureau.

When I looked at the textbook which praises the Communist Party and the curriculum guide which requires students’ patriotic sentiments to be graded, I feel the urge to take my petition of withdrawal to the streets instead of taking it up with the school.

Hong Kong Economic Times deputy assignment editor (city news) Ken
Wong's family. (Ken Wong Photo)
I studied Chinese History in secondary school. My feelings towards the country comes neither from the astronauts nor the Olympics medals, but is acquired from learning bits and pieces of many historical incidents. Yet, I keep finding materials that instill in my child the idea of ‘Chinese Pride’ only through praises. I am shocked to see what’s going on.

Journalists are at the frontlines. Some are also parents. So how, as parents, do they view national education? Some believe in themselves, some place their trust in teachers or their children. Many are like me: we do not trust the government.

Strategy to keep observing 

Ken Wong, Deputy Assignment Editor of Hong Kong Economic Times, says: “I keep my silence, but I do not support Ng Hak-kim!”

He closely watched the anti-national education campaign during the summer but also kept his distance. Professional ethics kept him from taking part in an on-going news event.

His son, Jackman, is attending K3 this year. He has to pick a primary school soon. Wong considers the quality of the school as the most important criteria. Whether the school will teach national education is secondary. He believes a child does not get educated in school alone, but is also shaped at home and wherever information is available. He will actively discuss with his children and share his thoughts if the school does not provide appropriate education when issues are clearly in black and white.

EJ Insight senior reporter Jeff Pao and hi daughters
Lilian and Louise. (Jeff Pao Photo)
However, it is still too soon for Wong to decide. His strategy is to keep observing teaching materials of the school. He will not ask children to love the country but he supports students being taught Chinese history, “One cannot tell if they feel proud or are disgusted with their country if they are ignorant of the history of China...I want him to decide for himself, though I shall do my best to help him.” He hopes his child will know both the good and bad of the country.

Jeff Pao, Senior Reporter with EJ Insight will also be looking around for a suitable primary school for his elder daughter, Lillian. He is against the introduction of national education. His family of four took to the streets on July 29.

“We parents cannot protect our children from being brainwashed, say, if they were in a camp and we parents cannot tell what they have learned. How can we balance their thoughts?”

Brainwashing is easy, its impact huge

Pao believes that children should be kept away from these biased teaching.

Yet, it is a hard fact that the government will keep pushing national education in schools. He supports strikes in school and other actions. He does not mind if his children failed this subject although this would put them under pressure.

Curriculum must be well rounded

Newspaper chief photographer Lei Jih-sheng and his son Owen. (Lei
Jih-sheng Photo)
The principal of Pui Ching Middle School has just announced that the school would implement national education. Lei Jih-sheng, a chief photographer, is not so worried about his son, Owen, who is studying there. He has noticed that the school gives different views when talking about the June 4 Movement and Li Wang-yang, and that teachers encourage students to make their own judgment.

“It may be problematic if the school teaches the subject at primary 1. But secondary students know how to thinking critically,” he says.

Lei believes in his son as well as himself and the alumni. “I will keep an eye on the teaching material while the alumni will also monitor developments.”

Lei does not oppose national education provided the curriculum is well-rounded. It is important to understand China today. He has met college students who have got to know China better after joining some exchange programs and he thinks it is a good thing. However the teaching cannot be forced on the students or its contents are one-sided.