Hong Kong’s schools will get new guidelines on national security education, and authorities are also reviewing the curriculum to increase learning of China’s constitution and the city’s Basic Law, officials said.
The Education Bureau said it was the “basic responsibility” of schools to strengthen students’ sense of national identity, after rare comments on education made by the city’s security minister John Lee Ka-chiu.
In an interview with the Beijing loyalists newspaper Ta Kung Pao, published on Thursday, Lee called for “tighter management” of schools to remove the “bad apples”.
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Referring to what he deemed unprofessional teachers who had corrupted young minds, Lee said politics had no place in schools, and admitted it was partly because of the government’s failure to enact a national security law on its own.
“Most of those in the sector are committed to education,” he said in the interview. “But there are a few bad apples. A small number of them involve professional misconduct … Therefore, we need to start with upgrading school management, and staff management.”
Education authorities received 222 complaints about teachers’ professional misconduct in social incidents between June 2019 and June this year. Among the 180 completed investigations, 26 teachers have been reprimanded or given warning letters.
According to police, as at the end of last month, 3,725 of the 9,216 people arrested during the anti-government protests were students. Of those, about 45 per cent were still in secondary school.
“I believe we should deal with the education system first. While one student commits crime, it will affect a whole family,” Lee said.
“Now we have the national security law, the entire government can take measures to supervise, regulate, manage, and promote [national security education].”
Hong Kong national security law official English version
Lee also sits on the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, an agency created under the newly imposed national security legislation, of which Article 10 requires the Hong Kong government to “promote national security education in schools and universities”.
The committee is headed by the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, and her top aides, including the justice and financial secretaries and heads of disciplinary services. The Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung is not a member.
In a statement, the bureau said schools should “enhance students’ understanding” of China, the constitution, the Basic Law, and all aspects of the national security law.
“In respect of this, the bureau is seeking advice from other relevant bureaus and experts in various areas, and is consulting the education sector to work out more detailed guidelines on school management and learning activities, as well as to offer more support measures,” it said.
It also said a curriculum review was under way and the government would try to add the elements of national security education to the curriculum.
Wong Kam-leung, chairman of the pro-establishment Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, welcomed the initiatives.
“I am pleased to see the participation of the security authorities in promoting national security in schools,” he said. “What happened in the past year showed that schools alone could not cope with the infiltration of politics. More resources are needed to strengthen students’ sense of the rule of law and abide by law.”
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