QnA: Whose Education is it?
Updated: Mar 5
It has to be recognised that both students and teachers are having a tough time with teaching and learning in the SAR: first during the social unrest of 2019, and more recently with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the CCP's implementation of National Security Laws that are having a massive and long-lasting impact. The state of Hong Kong's Education system isn't as great as it could be and reading these blogs will serve as a useful preamble to the questions that follow :
Who has the legal responsibility for children?
Answer: the parents - it is they who are legally responsible for their family's children - childen are 'minors' under law!
All children - anyone under the age of 18 years old in Hong Kong (HK) - are the children of a family - only rarely are they decreed by a Court to be the children of the State.
As children of a family it is the parents who have the right to decide on the upbringing of their children - including mother tongue language, religion, subjects, etc. The State has no say in these matters.
Do Hong Kong parents have any rights?
Answer: Under UN conventions parents have rights !
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) article 26 (quote): “3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) article 5: "States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention."
Is Education in Hong Kong serving children and parents properly?
Publicly funded education in HK is intended for ALL children (regardless of ethnicity - majority & minority), but they are NOT currently being“educated” according to UNCRC Article 29.1 a-e including (quote):
“1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.”
Children of ethnic minority groups are undeniably at a disadvantage in HK. There is little respect or provision for cultural difference. Ethnic minorities are also over-represented in the city's poorest neighborhoods and communities.
In fact we note the following evidence of the shortcomings in Hong Kong's Education system.
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):
Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of China, adopted by the Committee at its sixty-fourth session (16 September–4 October 2013)
77. In Hong Kong, China, the Committee is concerned about:
(a) Bullying in schools and the competitive nature of the school system, resulting
in anxiety or depression among children and infringing their right to play and rest;
(b) The de facto discrimination against ethnic minority children and racial
segregation in the public school system, due to the availability of teaching only in Chinese
and the system of government-subsidized “designated schools” for these children;
(c) “Cross-border children” who have no access to local schools and are
commuting daily to and from mainland China.
78. The Committee recommends that Hong Kong, China:
(a) Take measures to address bullying in schools, including with the
participation of students themselves, and to reduce the competitiveness of the
education system and promote active learning capacities and the right of the child to
play and leisure, including by training teachers and providing more social workers
and psychologists in schools, and through the sensitization of parents and guardians;
(b) Urgently abolish the system of “designated schools” for children of ethnic
minorities and reallocate resources to promote their access to education in
mainstream schools, including through scholarships or lower entry qualifications;
(c) Intensify its efforts to implement legislation and policies on bilingual
education at all levels of education, ensuring high-quality education in Chinese as a
(d) Ensure access to local schools for all children living in Hong Kong, China.
We note that almost NONE of these UN recommendations have been implemented: i.e. that HK is moving even further away from its UN obligations for families, parents and children.]
The KEY relationship ought to be between parents and teachers. This is why there are PTAs!
Each parent decides for their child who, themselves, are unique and must be treated as such under a wholistic approach to childrens' education which is aimed at getting the best possible results for the child according to the UN definition of education UNCRC 29 1 (a-e) [see above].
Is Education in HK properly and adequately funded?
Answer: Yes, but no.
Fudge Answer: Does Education in any country get enough money? (Well, yes!) (Nyet??)
The sauce: No.
The HK government's Public Purse belongs to the people of Hong Kong (HK) - not the HK government. nor their masters the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This is proven because the (illigitimate) Legislative Council handles all matters relating to budget.
Funding and resourcing of schools is uneven. Access to school of choice is tempered by geographic location (zoning or enrolment plans), funding or fees, staffing arrangements and school management policies. The curriculum is heavily exam-oriented, with access to tertiary education extremely competitive.
It is important to note that in “The Basic Law” it states:
Article 136 (quote) “On the basis of the previous educational system, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, on its own, formulate policies on the development and improvement of education, including policies regarding the educational system and its administration, the language of instruction, the allocation of funds, the examination system, the system of academic awards and the recognition of educational qualifications.”
Children of wealthy parents are often enrolled at elitist schools that offer different curriculum and alternative pathways to tertiary educations. Most notable among these is the International Baccalaureate Career Programme (IBCP) instead of HKDSE (Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education).
Is there academic freedom in HK?
Answer: Well, that depends on HOW you define it, and WHOSE definition you use.
Basic Law Article 137 (quote) “Educational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom.”
Thus, the Education Bureau (EDB) in HK has to somehow keep their finger on the pulse of what is happening in schools and other places of learning across the territory, provide reassuring guidance to schools, parents and students, and set some expectations.
As an agency of government the EDB 'vision and mission' statements are about providing quality school education for students, developing their students' potential to the full and preparing them for life challenges.
Strangely, there is NO mention whatsoever of the HKSAR meeting all UN obligations for education, including those in UNCRC 29 1 (a-e) and the periodic recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. [See below]
The EDB say they deliver professional services and ensure effective use of resources, while forging partnerships to promote excellence in school education: arguably the MOST important relationship for EDB MUST be with parents and their children, the students YET EDB does not listen to anyone except CCP's Emperor Xi Jinping!
We will let these headline events speak for themselves:
Students in Hong Kong warn of erosion in academic freedom, The Indian Express, 29 July 2015
Academic freedom dies in Hong Kong, SupChina, 28 July 2020
Benny Tai: Hong Kong university fires professor who led protests, BBC, 28 July 2020
How Hong Kong's freedom is fast eroding, Deccan Herald, 31 July 2020
China is killing academic freedom in Hong Kong, The Economist, 23 August 2020
Hong Kong’s growing climate of fear and self censorship, New-TopStories.org, 4 September 2020
Academic freedom in Hong Kong: “It’s a storm and no one wants to go outside, even with an umbrella”, Index on Censorship, 21 September 2020
. . . . . .o o o o o o 0 0 0 0 0 0 o o o o o o . . . . . .
These aren't by any means all the questions that need answers!
Right now teachers are asking questions about their working conditions in the Covid pandemic, about an expectation that they will concede and cooperate with every wish made by the EDB and by the HK government , and by schools and parents too - whether it concerns wearing face masks and social distancing afrrangements, testing/screening for the virus, school lockdowns, changes to curriculum and learning environment, about online learning, about professional training and development, about changes to assessment, and so on, and so on!
What we see is an Education system with entrenched problems on a number of fronts, with administrators that address their master's whims rather than the wishes of those stakeholders who are most directly impacted - the learners and the teachers. We see administrators that too often tackle peripheral issues while ignoring the elephant in the room.
Although it has sometimes been considered a controversial philosophy, we believe that Education is political. In HK right now, this is especially so, with the recent curriculum changes being initiated as part of National Security legislation going much further than they need to and ought to. Indeed, there has been no consultation with parents and what little dialogue there is with teaching professionals does not instill confidence or provide answers to the serious questions that have to be asked.
The professionalism and experience of teachers is being challenged and ignored, not least in areas such as Liberal Studies and History education. Parents, Schools the curriculum, textbook publishers and principals in the city are all variously under attack from powerful people who wield more influence than they legitimately ought to:
Hong Kong’s former leader CY Leung blasts local school official over anti-police remarks, calling him ‘shame of the world’s education sector, (Line Today/SCMP, 29 July 2019)
Former Hong Kong leader C Y Leung tells younger generation to become ‘good’ people to seize opportunities from Beijing’s Greater Bay Area economic master plan, (Yahoo News/SCMP, 21 July 2019)
Student activism exposes defects of HK education, (China Daily 25 December 2019)
Ip Kin-yuen says Carrie Lam trying to blame teachers, (The Standard, 11 May 2020)
Hong Kong teachers’ union raises concerns over censorship as publishers revise textbooks after gov’t review, (HKFP, 19 August 2020)
Teacher disqualified for 'promoting Hong Kong independence', (BBC, 6 October 2020)
It is easy to draw comparisons today with previous periods in history - the cultural revolution and World War II - when academics and intellectuals have been targeted by those in power.
Who would want to become a teacher under such circumstances? What is becoming of our Education system? What is happening in HK's schools and universities?
Whose education is it?
Answer: Emperor Xi Jinping's!
Besides our blogs on the important theme of Education WTPOHK has published a raft of other scintillating reads!
On Carrie Lam:
On Rule of Law:
On the HK Police:
CCP please answer the following UN letters sent to you: