Pro-government lawmakers on Friday voted to set up a new Legco subcommittee to review how education authorities vet teaching materials and textbooks – from kindergartens up to secondary schools – saying tighter controls are needed to keep politics out of the classroom.
The pro-establishment camp has for years railed against what it says is a freewheeling education system that does little to keep biased or political teaching materials out of the classroom. Many have accused teachers of poisoning the minds of students and radicalising them.
As such, New People's Party legislator Eunice Yung proposed setting up a new Legco subcommittee to monitor the situation and suggest remedies, saying education has become a 'serious problem' in Hong Kong.
She held up as an example one primary school worksheet, which asked students which date National Day falls on by referring to a high-school protester who was shot in October.
The current system, she says, is broken.
“If the current mechanism is working, then we won’t receive so many complaints from parents”, she said.
Yung added that she wants to see clear guidelines from the Education Bureau, and for them to set up a new complaints channel for parents.
“I don’t think we’re going to do any political censorship in schools", she added.
But Democrat Ted Hui says he's worried that's exactly what this new Legco subcommittee will do.
"The pro-establishment camp only wants to use a magnifying glass to look into the political viewpoints that they don’t like”, he said. “By forming this subcommittee, it would create huge pressure to schools because… principals and teachers will feel pressured when coming up with their own Liberal Studies or General Studies materials.”
Hui and other pan-democrats argued that the new subcommittee is necessary, saying there's already an existing and effective review system for primary and secondary school textbooks, and the Education Bureau had just launched a new mechanism in October asking publishers to voluntarily submit Liberal Studies textbooks for review.
Despite their objections, pro-government councillors passed the motion to set up the new monitoring group.
During the debate, Yung had also noted that education authorities aren't monitoring teaching materials for the controversial Liberal Studies subject.
But the Secretary for Education, Kevin Yeung, said it's impossible for the bureau to review all teaching materials used across Hong Kong, and it relies on individual schools to ensure that such materials are used in a professional manner.