The next secretary for education has said that the national education scheme in Hong Kong schools was never suspended.

The push for a separate patriotic education subject sparked a controversy in 2012 soon after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying came into power, but it was halted following mass protests led by Joshua Wong’s since-disbanded Scholarism group.

The incoming education secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung – who is currently the bureau’s undersecretary – said that, although the plan for a separate subject was scrapped, national education as a topic continued to be taught in schools.

Kevin Yeung. Photo: GovHK.

“In different courses and educational activities, there are parts about national education within them,” he said on Wednesday. “National education is one of the items that we believe – in the review of academic structures – that we must include in the curriculum.

“Therefore, in the future, we will continue implementing national education. As to what form will be best, we will let teachers and the education sector conduct professional discussions, we hope we can do better in this field of work.”

Kindergarten level

Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam had said that the Chinese identity should be fostered among toddlers.

Yeung said it was a key area of the kindergarten curriculum guidelines that toddlers learn about their identity, family, society, and nation.

“I think it’s just natural that in the sort of education activity or teaching and learning activities, some of the area on national education could come naturally in the curriculum,” he said. “I think, so far, many of the kindergartens have been dealing with this issue very professionally and I would trust them that they will continue to do that.”

Part of Carrie Lam’s new administration meeting the press. Photo: GovHK.

On Wednesday, Carrie Lam said that, as Chinese people, citizens should care about the country’s development, when asked if she would reintroduce the controversial national education curriculum in schools.

“I hope they will be a new generation with a sense of national identity, love for Hong Kong and international perspectives,” she said.

But Joshua Wong, the leader of previous protests against the national education curriculum, questioned if Lam was preparing for a return of “brainwashing education.”

“Many schools have education about the country, but the public may not accept kindergarten children having to wear red scarfs,” he said.

“Five years ago, Carrie Lam cried when she was interviewed by the media, saying that the national education scheme put her integrity and credibility at stake. Now, will she commit that mistake once again, putting her integrity and credibility at stake because of a political mission?”

Student-led protests at the Civic Square in 2012. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Controversial appointment 

Kevin Yeung was also asked if Choi Yuk-lin – vice-chairperson of a pro-Beijing education group – will serve as under-secretary for education, as reported by pro-Beijing media on Wednesday.

See also: 3,000 petition against rumoured appointment of pro-Beijing teacher as education undersecretary

He refused to confirm Choi’s appointment. “The search process is still going on,” he said.

Choi lost in the Legislative Council’s education sector election to incumbent pro-democracy lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.