Community & Education Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Education Bureau under fire for hasty introduction of mandatory Basic Law course in secondary schools

The Education Bureau has been criticised for its “political” decision to introduce a mandatory Basic Law curriculum to secondary schools without consulting advisers.

Announcing its latest revision to the Secondary Education Curriculum Guide on Monday, the bureau said that junior high schools should spend a total of 51 hours teaching “relevant to Basic Law education” to students over the span of three years.

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An exhibition promoting the Basic Law. File Photo: GovHK.

The guide stated that “all schools are required” to spend 24 hours in Chinese history lessons and 15 hours in life and society lessons in their teaching of the Basic Law. If a school does not offer courses in life and society, it will need to run an independent “Constitution and the Basic Law” module.

Schools should also allocate 10 hours of history classes and two hours of geography classes to teaching topics relevant to the Basic Law, the guide said. In the case of geography, the guide suggested teachers may mention the Basic Law when they teach “rights and duties” and “external affairs.”

The guide stated that Basic Law education aims at helping students develop critical thinking skills and adopt positive values, including national identity, the rule of law, democracy and human rights, Ming Pao reported.

basic law curriculum

The Education Bureau’s guide to educators. Photo: The Education Bureau.

‘Ridiculous’

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen criticised the bureau for being “ridiculous,” as both Chinese history and history subjects already do not have enough class time to finish their required curricula.

Student activist Joshua Wong accused the bureau of bringing the establishment’s mentality – such as the notion that civic nomination and referendum are not provided for in the Basic Law – onto campuses, all in the name of curriculum changes, and limiting students’ critical thinking ability, Apple Daily reported.

History teacher Lai Tak-chung, who chairs the Hong Kong Liberal Studies Teachers’ Association, questioned the bureau’s reasoning for rushing to introduce the mandatory course.

He added that 10 hours of teaching is equivalent to 15 classes, and that history teachers would need to switch out other topics to make way for the new requirement.

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Ip Kin-yuen. File Photo: Ip Kin-yuen, via Facebook.

Fong Yiu-fai, a member of the commission responsible for reviewing a secondary school Chinese history curriculum, told Ming Pao that the commission had never been told that the revised Chinese history curriculum would include 24 hours of Basic Law teaching.

Calling the decision a “political” one, Fong urged the bureau to explain why it had already decided to add Basic Law teaching to the Chinese history curriculum when the commission has not even started the second round of discussions over the revised curriculum.

The bureau has been under heavy criticism for pushing through the revised curriculum. Critics argued that the proposed curriculum focuses more on positive aspects and less on negative ones of Chinese history.

Education Bureau under fire for hasty introduction of mandatory Basic Law course in secondary schools