As soothing Chinese music plays in the background, pupils at a kindergarten in Sham Shui Po work on an arts and crafts exercise. In the next room, students recite verses by the renowned Tang dynasty poet Li Bai, while in another, they press balls of pastry into mooncake moulds.
The activities are not one-offs, or part of Chinese culture week, but rather elements of a new curriculum at the Buddhist Tsang Kor Sing Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten designed to comply with the government’s latest policy on national security education, which emphasises learning about the motherland.
The curriculum involves numerous experiential activities, such as mathematics games from ancient China, tea tastings and an introduction to mainland China’s space industry. Other topics such as Chinese geography, weather, medicine and opera are also touched upon.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
The kindergarten, run by the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, started implementing the new curriculum – which has been submitted to the Education Bureau – in this academic year.
Principal Ng Yuen-hei said the new lessons aimed to teach young pupils about China “in an orderly and progressive manner”.
“By incorporating elements of Chinese traditional culture into the six areas of the curriculum, we help children to learn about our country and its culture,” she said.
“It can establish their national identity and nurture their affection towards the country.”
The Education Bureau requires kindergartens to cover six areas in their regular curriculum: physical fitness and health, language, early childhood mathematics, nature and living, self and society, and arts and creativity.
In addition, all Hong Kong schools below the tertiary level were told to submit reports to the bureau by the end of August illustrating how they intended to carry out new national security education requirements.
The changes were mandated under the Beijing-imposed national security law, which went into effect last year. In addition to outlawing acts of terrorism, subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces, the law also requires Hong Kong to “promote national security education in schools and universities”.
As such, education authorities have released at least 17 sets of guidelines covering curriculum, administrative work and student behaviour for schools to adopt by the 2022-23 school year at the latest.
Seven copies of former liaison office legal affairs director Wang Zhenmin’s book about the security law will also be sent to each kindergarten. A HK$3,000 (US$386) government subsidy will also be provided to kindergartens to buy flagpoles, flags and other patriotic paraphernalia.
Ng said that in addition to singing the national anthem daily, which had already been a tradition for more than 20 years, teachers would now also raise the Chinese flag every day, including at special ceremonies to mark important dates, such as the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to mainland sovereignty.
The activities, she said, would help pupils “form their sense of belonging to the country”.
“As we sing the anthem on a daily basis, children know they need to stand solemnly when they hear it playing,” teacher Tse Hiu-ching added.
Ng said traditional Chinese values, such as filial piety and the belief that “harmony in a family brings success to everything”, were also infused into the syllabus.
“We hope that they will appreciate China through learning about its culture,” she added.