10/04/2010, 00.00
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Hong Kong Catholic Diocese defends educational freedom before Court of Final Appeal

Church makes last appeal against 2004 law, which would curtail the freedom of school sponsoring bodies in the educational field in favour of tighter government controls. Mgr Tong calls on the faithful to pray for policy-makers to be open-minded about the various ways to run schools and imagine education.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SE) – The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has appealed to the Court of Final Appeal for a judicial review of the Education (Amendment) Ordinance 2004 (“Incorporated Management Committee” Education Ordinance), which the local Church has never accepted, considering it unconstitutional and a violation of the principle of freedom of education.

A hearing is scheduled for mid-December for the government and the diocese to state their views. As advised by counsel, the hearing will determine whether the Court of Final Appeal will grant the diocese its request and arrange for a judicial review of the ordinance. So far, the court has already rejected the diocese’s claim that the ordinance is unconstitutional.

Mgr John Tong, bishop of Hong Kong, has urged the faithful to continue praying for local educational policy-makers to have the “wisdom, breadth of vision and open-mindedness” to “respect and appreciate the educational beliefs and ethos of different school sponsoring bodies” and “accommodate themselves to different modes of school management”.

The educational reform bill, introduced by the government in 2002 and adopted in 2004, would require publicly funded schools to set up an incorporated management committee with members elected by parents, teachers, alumni as well as independent managers. Altogether about 60 per cent would be named by sponsoring bodies.

Christian Churches said they fear that such a body would politicise school management, and that the government would end up choosing educational content, thus marginalising sponsoring bodies.

For this reason, Catholics Anglicans and Methodists view the reform as way to undermine the power of sponsoring bodies to run their schools as they see fit.

So far, only half of publicly funded schools have accepted the government proposal.

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