Govt backs down on national education

09-09-2012

Protesters gathered in their thousands on Saturday. Photo: Reuters.
The Chief Executive, C Y Leung, has dropped plans to force schools to teach "moral and national education", and to make it an independent subject.

He announced that instead schools would have freedom to decide whether to introduce the subject as part of other courses, such as civic education.

Mr Leung also said he would not have included the issue in his election manifesto if it had not been a policy of the previous government.

The climb-down, on Saturday, follows nearly two weeks of protests against the controversial subject outside the government headquarters in Admiralty.

The original plan was to introduce national education in all primary schools over the next three years, and in all schools by 2016.

But Mr Leung said there would now be no such deadline.

Asked why he had made this sudden change one day ahead of the Legislative Council elections, the Chief Executive rejected suggestions that he had received instructions from the central government.

He also reiterated a denial that introducing the subject to schools was a political task given to him by Beijing.

Mr Leung said the policy was something that he and his government had inherited.

"It's not something of our making", he continued.

"And as soon as we realised that there were opposing and different views in the community, I myself and my team have dealt very quickly with the issue." Mr Leung called on opponents of national education to stop their protest, hunger strikes and plans to boycott classes.

Afterwards the protesters who'd been on hunger strike ended their action.

The organisers of the rally said more than 100,000 people had gathered outside the government headquarters on Saturday evening.

The Civil Alliance Against National Education welcomed the decision to drop the school deadline.

But a spokeswman, Linda Wong, said there were still concerns, since responsibility was being placed on individual schools, which could put them in a difficult position.

She added that opponents of the subject had demanded that the controversial curriculum guide be abandoned, but the government had offered only a review.


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