Twenty students and activists protested outside the Education Bureau’s office in Wan Chai on Monday afternoon, accusing the bureau of proposing a series of curriculum changes that they say “brainwash” students.

The protesters, who were from Scholarism, PMI Students Concern Group and Societas Linguistica Hongkongesis, demanded the government shelve a proposal to teach simplified Chinese characters in public schools and as well as scrap changes to the Integrated Humanities subject curriculum.

Scholarism protest
Protest outside the Education Bureau’s office. Photo: Scholarism, via Facebook.

Prince Wong Ji-yuet, spokesperson for student activist group Scholarism, told HKFP that the government should “explain why there are so many pro-China education policies” in recent years.

Wong said it was unnecessary to teach students how to read simplified text as they are able to understand it easily. She added that it was “reasonable” for Hong Kong students to learn traditional Chinese characters as they are part of Hong Kong culture. Currently, public schools in Hong Kong use traditional text in teaching Chinese language subjects.

The proposal to teach simplified characters was proposed in a public consultation document concerning the renewal of the Chinese language education curriculum in schools. The Education Bureau said the renewed syllabus would “broaden students’ reading horizons and aid better communication with the mainland and overseas countries”.

simplified, traditional text
The word “Cantonese” in traditional (left) and simplified (right) characters. Photo: WikiCommons.

Yip Yam-wing, Principal Assistant Secretary of the Curriculum Development division, defended the proposal and said the bureau did not have a plan to replace traditional characters with simplified text.

‘National education’ 

Scholarism also raised concerns over the proposed curriculum change of the Integrated Humanities subject. They said that keywords like “nation”, “One Country, Two Systems”, and “Basic Law” were added deliberately into the new syllabus, and feared that this might imply an inclusion of the ill-fated Moral and National Education curriculum into the Integrated Humanities subject.

The unpopular Moral and National Education subject was scrapped in 2012 following a huge wave of student protests. Opponents said it was a political tool by the government to build a sense of patriotism among local students.

The public consultation for both proposals ended on Monday.

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).