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Rachel Lu

Surprised? What Hong Kong’s People Are Really Saying About National Education

The pamphlet that started it all

The “brainwashing” will have to wait. Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has just postponed the deadline on which the city’s controversial mandatory national education curriculum would have been adopted. Mr. Leung  hopes to calm the wave of opposition on the eve of Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong. Protesters, including hunger strikers, celebrated Leung’s decision as a victory against “brainwashing from China.”  

However, the true picture is much more complex than a simple thumbs up or down (or arms crossed, a gesture adopted by protesters), at least judging from comments in Yahoo News Hong Kong, where many Hong Kong netizens left their thoughts on national education. From the comments, some worry that Hong Kong children lack knowledge about China and Chinese history, and opposition to national education may itself become another form of brainwashing. 

MANDY pointed out that when Hong Kong’s education bureau introduced curriculum reforms in 2000, Chinese history was one of the classes cut from middle schools’ mandatory curriculum. 骨精強 wrote, “It’s not a question of whether Chinese history is taught well, but that the course is seen as useless because it has nothing to do with making money. That’s how the society, corporations, parents and students see it, but such fashionable view points are often skewed. What’s fashionable and popular today may become worthless tomorrow — just to give one example: Communism. But, a Chinese person who doesn’t study, or does not need to study, the history of one’s own country, that ‘s very sad.” {{1}}[[1]]不是探討教中史教得好不好的問題,而是中史科已經被看作沒有價值了,因為同搵錢無關,社會,商家,家長,學生都咁樣睇。潮流觀點好多時都會偏頗的,今日以為流行的,大家贊同的,後來可以變成一文不值,只舉一個例子: 共產主義。但是,一個中國人唔讀,或唔需要讀自己國家的歷史,係好可悲的。[[1]]

Discussions encouraged?

Jimmy wonders if national education classes are an opportunity, “There is rarely a class that gives everyone an opportunity to talk about the situation in China. Why not take the opportunity? A book is full of dead words but the teachers and the students are real people [who can engage in discussion]. Are teachers so used to teach rote memorization that they won’t change? Is there no class that would give our children an opportunity to develop independent thinking skills? Lastly I would like to ask everyone, what is the definition of brainwashing?” {{2}}[[2]] 難得有一科可以畀大家討論下國情的機會,點解唔把握。本書係死嘅,D老師係生㗎嘛!唔通D老師習慣咗填鴨式教育,唔識變通?無呢科邊有機會畀我地D細佬發揮下佢地獨立思考能力?最後我想請教下大家,洗腦的定義係乜。[[2]]

三條 agrees. “Speaking on this issue only, I definitely oppose any emphasis on loving the Party in national education, but the part about the contemporary Chinese situation is quite useful. One must know about the ’92 Consensus when one talks about Cross-Strait relations, but how many people really know what that is? Hong Kong is a very money-driven society, and the study of Chinese history is seen as a dead-end. Donald Tsang said that he was a bad student when it came to Chinese history. If you tell middle school students in Hong Kong that Chinese history is now a mandatory class, the wave of opposition is probably even higher than the one against national education. That’s a basic problem with Hong Kong’s education and can only be solved from the outside, and adding a class to get to know China is the only way right now.” {{3}}[[3]]  以事論事,國民教育渲染愛黨我絕對反對,但近代國情部分真係有其效用,談兩岸關係不可不知既九二共識,此處多少討論者真係了解?————香港係功利社會,讀中史被視為冇出路,曾蔭權笑言自己中史肥佬。一係咁,你問下宜家既中學生,中史轉為必修科,反對聲音話唔埋拍得住通識,尼點係香港教育根本性上既流弊,要解決無疑要從外在著手,加插認識國情既科目暫時係唯一出路。[[3]]

Is this child developing independent judgment?

東東 also does not understand the point of scrapping national education classes, asking, “Why does everyone say that getting to know China is being forced to love the Communist Party? There are many parts about getting to know China–in addition to politics, there is geography, economic development, customs of ethnic groups, history, etc. and also its relationship with other countries. Even if there is a part about politics in the course, it could be analytical and not brainwashing. Isn’t giving more information to our next generation better than being afraid of brainwashing and avoid getting to know China? It would give children more information to think about, but avoidance would only make their views skewed. Making [national education] its own class would make it more systematic. And giving grades would evaluate students’ knowledge and analytical abilities, not how much they love the Communist Party. So what if students are graded [in national education]? ”  {{4}}[[4]]其實認識中國, 為何大家就對號入座話人迫你愛共產黨? 認識中國包括好多方面, 除了政治, 可以去了解地理, 經濟發展, 各民族風俗習慣, 歷史等等, 與其他國的關係! 就算課程有政治結構, 都可以係分析, 不一定是洗腦。讓下一代了解更多, 不是比害怕洗腦而逃避認識中國更好? 這樣他們先可以有更多資料去思考, 逃避只會令孩子思想更以偏概全! 獨立成科就是讓他更有系統地教!只要評分是做到評核學生有幾好的認識和分析能力, 而不是有幾愛共產黨, 要評分又如何?[[4]]

Eddie, however, points out that it is unrealistic to expect classroom discussions, “You want everyone to talk about the situation in China? But the ‘right’ answer is ‘I love you, Great Motherland’ = top score. In Hong Kong, where people study only for good grades, students will naturally seek higher scores and become ‘patriotic.’ It’s not brainwashing, that’s just [natural].” {{5}}[[5]] 大家討論下國情?但「標準」答案是「偉大的祖國我愛你」=滿分。在讀書求分數的氣氛圍下,學生自然為了攞高分………..個個充滿「愛心」。不是洗腦,是自然入腦。[[5]]

Shiu Hung, who claims to be a teacher, comments, “It’s a great insult to Hong Kong’s teachers if you say national education is brainwashing, [as] that means teachers will only teach students to sing praises of the Communist Party blindly. Loving one’s country does not mean sing the praises of the Communist Party, but to criticize and condemn injustice like the Tiananmen Incident and Li Wangyang Incident. Don’t those people attend the June 4 [Tiananmen Square] memorial in Hong Kong each year love their country? They want a just verdict on June 4 because they love their country. Loving China does not mean loving the Communist Party. Do you think teachers do not know the difference? Every Hong Kong citizen should read the national education guidelines and decide for themselves using their independent judgment, and not to oppose ‘brainwashing’ because they are brainwashed themselves. The booklet on Chinese Model is not representative of the national education course. The education bureau director already said that the booklet is not fair and teachers don’t need to use it.” {{6}}[[6]]若言洗腦,這是對香港教師的極大侮辱,因為這表示教師祇會教導學生盲目歌頌共產黨。愛護自己的國家民族並不是要歌頌共產黨,反而是要批評及譴責不公平及不公義的事如六四及李旺陽事件。每年出席維園六四燭光晚會的人不愛國嗎?正正因為愛國才要求平反六四。愛中國絕對不代表愛中國共產黨,難道教師這樣都分不開嗎?所有市民都應該細閱該課程指引,自已運用獨立思考能力去判斷,不要被人洗腦去反洗腦。那本「中國模式」教材並不代表國民教育科,吳克儉早說有偏頗,老師可以不採用。[[6]]

Baldur kept it simpler. “I don’t want to be represented. I’ll tell you what I really think tomorrow with my vote!” {{7}}[[7]]我不願被代表,明天用選票告訴你我真正的想法![[7]]

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • Archie

    Good read thanks Rachel

  • Archie

    Good read thanks Rachel

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  • acklbbc

    Just to let you know recently there has been a prominence of 五毛, or paid netizens deliberately leaving pro-CCP comments on Yahoo News comment columns, so the view you get from these comments are not necessarily the most accurate protrayal of the main-stream point of view in Hong Kong.

  • acklbbc

    Just to let you know recently there has been a prominence of 五毛, or paid netizens deliberately leaving pro-CCP comments on Yahoo News comment columns, so the view you get from these comments are not necessarily the most accurate protrayal of the main-stream point of view in Hong Kong.

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