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  patriotism course defended

The Education Bureau of Hong Kong announced on April 30 that it would follow recommendations to delay the mandatory Moral and National Education program until 2015 instead of this year as previously planned, to give schools more time to prepare.

The flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China Monday published an article defending the teaching of "patriotism" in Hong Kong after local authorities recently decided to put off the program amid mounting controversy and accusations of "brainwashing."

The Education Bureau of Hong Kong announced on April 30 that it would follow recommendations to delay the mandatory Moral and National Education program until 2015 instead of this year as previously planned, to give schools more time to prepare.

From this year until 2015, the subject will be taught at primary and secondary schools on a trial basis that consist of one or two lessons in a week.

The program has led to heated debate since the plan was first introduced in 2010, with opposition groups saying that it is a tool for "brainwashing." Supporters, on the other hand, argue that students in Hong Kong lack a sense of national identity, without which they will become alienated from the rest of the country.

"National education is not unique to China … it has become an international practice," wrote People's Daily in an article Monday.

"Countries like Japan, Korea and Russia have all been teaching young people about patriotism and national pride," the newspaper wrote.

Citing a survey result from the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, the paper said that 80 percent of Hong Kong teachers agreed with the national education curriculum.

According to local authorities, the new program aims to "facilitate students' identity-building under different domains, namely family, society, the nation and the world, and fosters their sense of commitment and contribution toward these respective domains."

The local government has modified the guidelines on the national education curriculum by deleting expressions such as "cultivate students to feel proud of being Chinese" and adding topics including democracy, human rights and rule of law. The revised guidelines also allow the teaching of sensitive issues but advise teachers to play an impartial role, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

Cheung Man Kwong, a member of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong and the former president of the HK Professional Teachers' Union, said national education should be objective.

"Don't teach students with only censored materials," he told the Global Times.

Wong Kwan-yu, chairman of the Federation of Education Workers in Hong Kong, expressed his support for national education and said "brainwashing" is unlikely where the flow of information is free.

"National education is more important to us," Wong said. "For a long time Hong Kong was a British colony and some people have had their sense of identity obscured."

(Global Times  May 08, 2012)

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