Education Secretary Kevin Yeung has said that any proposed changes to Hong Kong’s liberal studies curriculum are speculation.
Yeung’s comment followed a recent uproar over local education policies. It was recently reported that an article, in a set of Mandarin teaching materials written by a university consultant, stated that Cantonese was a dialect and not a mother tongue. Concerns were raised after local media, citing unnamed sources, reported that the Education Bureau’s Task Force on Review of School Curriculum was considering making the liberal studies subject into an elective.
On Friday, Yeung addressed the debate over the liberal studies curriculum: “I want everyone to know that we did not request the task force to review, or not review, any particular topic, so it has complete autonomy and flexibility to decide what areas they will make suggestions over to the government.”
Yeung said that the task force was conducting an overall review on curriculum design and a report will likely be submitted next year. “So any comments on how there will be changes on particular subjects is speculation.”
He added that the government had openly conducted a review on the liberal studies subject last year and no curriculum changes were proposed.
Last month, local news station i-Cable revealed that the Education Bureau’s textbook review group criticised certain phrases in textbooks as problematic. The phrases include “Hong Kong is located south of China,” “the Chinese Communist Party’s one-party rule” and “China insisted on taking back Hong Kong’s sovereignty.”
Demosisto party members including Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam lodged a protest as Yeung attended Friday’s event, and demanded to speak to him directly. Yeung later told reporters that the identities of the textbook review group members are kept secret to ensure that the review could be conducted in a fair and pressure-free environment.
According to a statement released by the pro-democracy party following the meeting, Yeung told them the textbook review guidelines had not been updated since 1998. However, the group said, the guidelines do not mention that certain phrasings were inappropriate, and questioned whether the group was allowed to deviate from the guidelines.
“We feel that [Yeung] has been avoiding the question of whether there is any ‘black-box operation’ with the review group, which is disappointing. The truth is, the public has the right to know whether the membership makeup of the group is reasonable, and whether the voices of teachers and academics are drowned out by officials,” Demosisto said.
The party also voiced concerns over any potential interference by the Education Bureau and said that the government had failed to explain how such a situation could be avoided.
“We urge the government not to lower the status of Cantonese and liberal studies, or let politics take precedence over education,” Demosisto added.