Council meeting – Member’s Motions: Making Chinese History a compulsory subject at senior secondary level

Making Chinese History a compulsory subject at senior secondary level

Mr Chan Chun Ying:

President, a country is not only a “political-legal” community, but also a “historical-cultural” community.  Understanding a country should include grasping the knowledge about its constitutional system, culture and history.  Through various channels such as school education, social organizations, the Internet and the media, we should “understand” the country unconsciously and imperceptibly from a young age, so that we can “identify” with the country and “recognize” our national identity.

Before Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, members of the public, under the colonial education of the British Hong Kong Government, generally had a lack of knowledge about the country’s development process and their sense of belonging to the country and sense of national identity were weak.  After Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, due to the failure to promptly implement “national education” in schools and promote education to enhance the sense of belonging to the country and sense of national identity in society, the public did not have a deep “understanding” of the country, let alone “identification” with the country.  I am very grateful to Prof LAU Chi-pang for proposing this motion today to give this Council the opportunity for debating on Chinese History education.

The setting of the Chinese History curriculum in secondary schools can date back to the late Qing dynasty, and has evolved since then, with the curriculum and teaching materials undergoing continuous changes and development.  At present, the Chinese History curriculum developed in Mainland secondary schools is compiled uniformly by the national education authorities and implemented in parallel with the World History curriculum.  That is to say, the curricula for Secondary One and Secondary Two focus on learning Chinese history; at Secondary Three, students learn world history, including ancient and modern world history; and at the senior secondary level, History is only one of the elective subjects.

President, in Hong Kong before its return to the motherland, the then Education Department did not make Chinese History a compulsory subject at the junior secondary level.  Upon Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, it was only suggested that Chinese History should be taught in no less than two sessions per week.  Still, Chinese History was not made a compulsory subject at the junior secondary level.  It was not until 2001 that the Government made Chinese History a compulsory subject at the junior secondary level, requiring it to take up 5% of the lesson time.  However, some schools did not teach Chinese History as an independent subject.  Only recently, in the 2018-2019 school year, has Chinese History been made a compulsory subject at the junior secondary level.  Since it has been implemented for such a short period of time, the positive effects are yet to be observed.

Chinese History teaching materials are essential to teaching Chinese history well.  Most of the current Chinese History textbooks are compiled by publishers according to the printed textbook writing guidelines.  They are then reviewed and included in the Recommended Textbook List for schools to choose from freely.  Schools can also develop their own materials.  To cultivate students’ thinking from multiple perspectives, schools can also select the comments of different historians on a certain historical event to encourage students’ reading.

Therefore, when compiling textbooks, different publishers have different ways of presenting contents, using historical materials, setting exercises and so on.  The materials selected are quite diverse, and the viewpoints and narrative angles are not the same.  Can they effectively cultivate in secondary school students a sense of belonging to the country, an affection for the Chinese people and a sense of national identity?  I think the effect is doubtful.  In the past, History textbooks which had been submitted for review were found to have distorted history, not to mention those which did not need to be submitted to the Education Bureau for review.

Teaching methods and learning activities can be multi-faceted and multi-channel, and students can also read books with different historical standpoints outside the classroom.  However, there is a need to standardize the narrative angles of textbooks.  Currently, there are still many aspects of history education in Hong Kong that need to be reviewed and improved.  If the teaching material compilation and review mechanism can be improved, it is believed that it will be conducive to achieving some of the objectives originally intended by the Chinese History curriculum.

President, to enhance secondary school students’ understanding of Chinese history, including geography and culture, the Government should continue to review the senior secondary curriculum so that students can learn Chinese history throughout their entire secondary education, but it is worth discussing whether it should be made a compulsory subject.

President, with these remarks, I support the amendment proposed by Revd Canon Peter Douglas KOON.