The Education Bureau has defended its choice to liken Beijing-Hong Kong relationship to one between a school principal and a teacher in a newly-released teaching package, despite criticism from the public.

“The analogy is intended to allow students to grasp complicated, difficult and abstract concepts through everyday life examples that they can relate to. This kind of teaching method is often used in other subjects,” the bureau said in a statement on Friday.

Basic Law teaching material
The video in question. Photo: GovHK.

Its remarks came after the Education Bureau recently issued new guidelines to schools requiring them to teach 51 hours of Basic Law-related material to secondary students between Form 1 and Form 3. The bureau also released a revised teaching package on Wednesday.

The package divides the Basic Law curriculum into nine units, complemented by several videos. The analogy in question is mentioned in a three-minute video on the “Relationship between the Central Authorities and the HKSAR.”

“The system looks like a school in which the principal has to manage all issues concerning the school,” the video says. “But there are too many classes in the school, making it impossible for the principal to handle each matter with great care.”

basic law teaching material
Basic Law teaching material. Photo: GovHK video.

“Therefore, the principal authorises class teachers to manage their own class affairs.”

It says the principal has the duty to “supervise the performance of the class teachers” and make decisions in situations beyond the teachers’ “delegated authority.”

Unique relationship

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said on an RTHK programme on Friday that the analogy is “problematic” because it fails to highlight the uniqueness of the One Country, Two System policy.

Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee member Simon-Hoey Lee, speaking on the show, said the analogy was not meant to be all-encompassing, but to demonstrate the power difference between the Chinese government and Hong Kong.

“We need to consider the fact that the audience is secondary school students. The material cannot be too complicated,” he said. He added that the package was made after some teachers said they had difficulty teaching students about the Basic Law.

Ip replied: “But if the video cannot give a full picture, and some teachers find the subject difficult, the analogy would be misleading. Especially because the Beijing-Hong Kong relationship is a unique one.”

Ip Kin-yuen
Ip Kin-yuen. File Photo: Ip Kin-yuen, via Facebook.

“The issue is that the nature of the relationship in this analogy is completely different,” he said. The lawmaker argued that the analogy would fit Beijing’s relationship with Chinese provinces and cities, but not Hong Kong as it has a different status.

Ip added that the content of government materials must be professional and accurate, as they are considered authoritative.

In response, Lee said he will consider the feedback. He said the Department of Justice, the Education Bureau and a number of teachers took part in the process of creating the package.

Another member of the Basic Law promotion body and secondary school principal Choi Yuk-lin said teachers are free to adapt the materials for their classes.

See also: Hong Kong’s secretive meetings with China’s education ministry prompt renewed fears of meddling

Under the new guideline, schools are expected to incorporate Basic Law teaching in four subjects: Chinese history, life and society, history and geography. The bureau says the programme consists of activities that are already part of the school curriculum, and does not constitute “additions” to the syllabus.

In January, the Education Bureau was criticised for proposing the mandatory curriculum without consulting advisers.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.