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LCQ7: Moral and National Education subject
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     Following is a question by the Hon Lam Tai-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (October 17):

Question:

     On September 8 this year, the Chief Executive ("CE") announced changes to the policy on the Moral and National Education ("MNE") subject.  Under the new policy, school sponsoring bodies and schools may exercise discretion to decide whether the subject should be introduced and whether it should be introduced as an independent subject, and no deadline would be set for implementing the subject.  In addition, the Moral and National Education Support Grant of $530,000 disbursed to each school may be used on subjects other than the MNE subject.  Schools which implement the MNE subject may also determine by themselves the modes and schedule for its implementation.  CE then indicated to the media on  October 8 that the recommendation of the Committee on the Initiation of Moral and National Education Subject to shelve the Curriculum Guide of the MNE subject ("Curriculum Guide") was accepted, but there was no need to withdraw the subject.  As the matter now stands, quite a number of people and groups in the community are still demanding the Government to withdraw the subject.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will conduct another round of public consultation on issues relating to the implementation of the MNE subject; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it has assessed the impact of withdrawing the subject on the development of education in the short, medium and long term and on the development of young people; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether it has assessed the impact of shelving the Curriculum Guide on the implementation of the subject; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) whether it has assessed if the withdrawal of the subject will cause confrontations and deep-rooted conflicts among school sponsoring bodies, the education sector, the SAR Government and the State; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(e) whether it has assessed the impact of withdrawing the subject on the implementation of policies by and the governance credibility of the SAR Government; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(f) how it ensures that there are adequate quality teachers in schools to implement the subject; whether it will increase the number of related training courses; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(g) whether it has assessed the impact of the aforesaid change of policy on the implementation of the subject by school sponsoring bodies and schools; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(h) whether it knows the number of schools which have decided to introduce the subject so far, as well as their modes and schedules for implementation, with the number and names of such schools broken down by school zone;

(i) whether it has assessed the impact of shelving the Curriculum Guide on school sponsoring bodies and schools which have already implemented the subject; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(j) whether it has assessed if it will be unfair to schools which have implemented or plan to implement the subject when all schools are given the grant of $530,000 regardless of whether they will implement the subject or not; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(k) whether it has assessed if it needs to increase the amount of Moral and National Education Subject Support Grant after the Curriculum Guide has been shelved, so as to provide more resources to schools for compiling teaching materials on their own; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(l) given that schools may exercise discretion in making reference to any curriculum guides or developing their own teaching materials when implementing the subject, how the Government ensures the quality of the teaching materials of the schools;

(m) whether it has planned to help relieve the pressure from the community and public opinion on school sponsoring bodies or schools which have already implemented the subject; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(n) whether it has received any requests for assistance from school sponsoring bodies or schools intending to implement the subject which indicated that they were forced to abandon the idea as they could not stand the pressure from the community and public opinion; if it has, of the details and the assistance to be provided by the authorities for them in facilitating the smooth implementation of the subject;

(o) whether any measures are in place to encourage more school sponsoring bodies or schools to implement the subject; if there are such measures, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(p) whether it will assess and review the effectiveness of the implementation of the subject; if it will not, of the reasons for that; if it will, the time to do so and the details?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to the questions raised by Hon Lam Tai-fai is as follows:

(a) Under the new policy on the Moral and National Education subject, if school sponsoring bodies (SSBs) and schools decide to introduce the subject, they can freely adopt any teaching guides and relevant teaching resources that their professional judgement deems appropriate.  The Government will not set requirements as to how this should be done or provide any mandatory or official curriculum guide for the subject.  Under the principle of schools' professional judgement, we consider that it is not necessary to re-convene the consultation on the implementation of the subject.

(b), (d) and (e) Hong Kong has always placed strong emphasis on moral, national and civic education.  It is also the unanimous view of the Committee on the Initiation of the Moral and National Education Subject (the Committee) that such education is an important facet of school education, and that whole-person development should include knowledge about one's country, understanding of one's national identity and awareness of such core values as inclusiveness and diversity in the wider society.  Therefore, it stands to reason that students should receive moral, national and civic education.  Based on the opinions collected from SSBs, schools and various sectors in society, the majority view is not to withdraw the MNE subject.  Likewise, both the Committee and the Government do not support withdrawing the subject.

(c) Although the Government has shelved the Moral and National Education Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 to Secondary 6), moral and national education is not a complete novelty to schools.  To meet their own and their students' needs, schools could continue to implement moral and national education and cultivate students' positive values and attitudes so as to achieve the overall curriculum goals.  If SSBs and schools decide to offer the Moral and National Education subject, the Government and the community should respect and have confidence in them.  Schools can freely adopt any teaching guides and relevant teaching resources that their professional judgement deems appropriate.

(f) Exercising their professional autonomy, SSBs and schools can continue to make the most use of the Moral and National Education Support Grant of HK$530,000 disbursed by the Education Bureau (EDB) to promote moral and national education.  The EDB will continue to provide professional development programmes and support in various teaching and learning areas.

(g) In 2001, the Curriculum Development Council published the report Learning to Learn íV The Way Forward in Curriculum Development, which highlighted the aim of "understanding (one's own) national identity and contributing to the nation and society" as one of the seven learning goals.  Elements of Chinese cultures, and the development and challenges facing China are included in related subjects, such as Chinese Language at different Key Learning Stages, General Studies at the primary level, Life and Society, Geography, Chinese History and Religious Education at the junior secondary level, as well as Liberal Studies and Chinese History at the senior secondary level.  Life-wide learning experiences, at the same time, cover values education and the cultivation of positive values.  Under the new policy, SSBs and schools could choose to introduce the Moral and National Education subject or to implement moral, civic and national education in different modes.  Hence, under the new policy and the principle that respects schools' professional autonomy and judgement, the development of adolescents in the short, medium and long term could be sustained.

(h) and (i) Based on the views collected from and our observations of the SSBs and schools, some of them, under the principle of professional autonomy, are considering to offer moral, civic and national education, etc. that is in line with the schools' contexts to facilitate whole-person development.  The impact of the shelving of the Curriculum Guide on the SSBs and schools cannot be assessed for the time being due to the lack of comprehensive data.

(j) and (k) The Moral and National Education Support Grant (MNESG) was disbursed to schools in August 2012.  Regardless of the modes of implementing moral and national education, such as values education, life education, education on national situations, civic education, sustainable development education, and sex education and its relevant issues, schools can make flexible use of the MNESG to develop their own learning and teaching resources, to procure learning and teaching resources, and to hire professional staff or services to share and support related work.  Hence, there should not be any issue of unfairness to the schools concerned.  As the MNESG has been disbursed for less than three months, it is not necessary to assess the need of adjusting the amount at present.

(l) All along, schools have been adopting a student-centred and school-based approach when providing students with worthwhile learning experiences and developing their desirable moral and national qualities.  Schools make their professional decisions on the choice of teaching guides and related learning and teaching resources to be adopted with reference to their vision, aims of education, school contexts and students' needs.  The EDB respects schools' professional autonomy and, as an established practice, will continue to provide professional development programmes and school-based professional support when such needs arise.

(m) We believe that the controversy will come to an end upon the announcement of the revised policy on September 8 and the decision made on the formal shelving of the Guide on October 8.

(n) The Bureau has not received any request for assistance.

(o) and (p) Since the Curriculum Reform in 2001, moral and civic education has been one of the four key tasks in the reform.  The aims are to develop students' independent thinking and autonomy so that they are able to distinguish right from wrong, and to help students develop positive values and attitudes so that they can make informed decisions in a caring and reasonable manner.  As an established practice, the EDB will continue to keep abreast of schools' development in different domains and the effectiveness of learning through a wide range of channels, such as seminars and focus group interviews.  The EDB will keep in contact with SSBs and schools, listen to their opinions and suggestions actively, and respect their professional discretion in deciding whether and how they are to implement the Moral and National Education subject.

Ends/Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:37

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