07/19/2012, 00.00
HONG KONG

Catholic schools against Beijing's 'national education'

Card Tong writes to school principals and supervisors, urging step-by-step action. Assistant to Episcopal education delegate says Catholic schools should not introduce the subject until a diocesan taskforce looks into it. At the same time, "we don't necessarily have to use" government money "even if it is given".

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Catholic schools will not heed the government's invitation to introduce the national education course in its schools. Antony Ip Sing-piu, an assistant to the Episcopal delegate for education, said yesterday that Catholic schools would not introduce the subject "the way it has been proposed" until a clear set of objectives was drawn up by a recently formed diocesan taskforce looking into the subject.

Ip said that, for now, Catholic schools would not use the HK0,000 (US$ 68,000) offered by the government to schools that introduced the subject.

"We are responsible to parents and students," he explained, and "we don't necessarily have to use it [the funding] even if it is given".

Recently, Ip said, Cardinal John Tong-hon wrote a letter to Hong Kong Catholic school principals and supervisors stating that national education should be introduced to Catholic classrooms step by step.

According to the reform, which was proposed in 2002 and adopted in 2004, each publicly-funded school has to set up an incorporated management committee (IMC) that would included parents' elected representatives, alumni and government appointees. They would run the school.

Although 60 per cent of IMC members would be picked by a school's sponsoring body, Christian groups are afraid that education would be politicised, and that sooner or later the government would choose the curricula, elbowing out sponsoring bodies.

On top of that, the reform calls for all Hong Kong schools, primary and up, to include unspecified national education course as a separate subject.

At an education forum in the former British colony last year, Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Hong Kong's bishop emeritus, dismissed the course as brain washing. "What do they expect?" he asked, "that we approve the actions of the Communist party?"

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