Hong Kong’s Liberal Studies Classes Spark Uproar In Mainland China

Hong Kong has implemented a more progressive educational curriculum that is seemingly not in accordance with the old-school paradigm of Mainland China. The city, released from British rule in 1997, operates under a separate school system from the rest of the country, one that advocates the discussion of civil disobedience and freedom of the press.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Ng Shun-wing from the Hong Kong Institute of Education praised Hong Kong’s shift from traditional thinking to a more progressive one and explained that the liberal studies classes give way to personal awareness while allowing students to free themselves from “indoctrination and memorizing.”

“In Hong Kong, we teach critical thinking, not like in China where they teach by indoctrination and memorizing.”

Another proponent of the curriculum, a liberal studies teacher, implied that the classes facilitate social awareness and progressive thought.

“The biggest impact of liberal studies is that it encourages students to be much more aware of current affairs.”

However, opponents of the liberal studies classes fear that Hong Kong’s curriculum goes against Mainland China’s traditional focus on educational memorization and opposition to topics that call into question the Communist Party.

Per the South China Morning Post, Regina Ip, a legislator and chair of the New People’s Party, complained and cited Hong Kong’s curriculum as incomplete and “fake.”

“[R]eference books remain ‘highly vague’ in relating the details of the benefits of diversity in contemporary society. In discussing Islam for example, ‘discourse is often heavily negatively biased; Muslims are cast as sexist, patriarchal and backwards’…The lack of textual studies and the reliance on makeshift, concocted material at secondary school level undermines convergence with a true liberal education at tertiary level. Left in the wrong hands, the subject risks producing the opposite effect of fostering bigoted thinking predicated on a shallow knowledge base. Our society has much to lose from a fake liberal education.”

However, Ip’s comments come as no surprise, given China’s history of human rights violations. Downing a more progressive educational system to maintain the old guard has been a mainstay among those who promote the status quo. Therefore, many opponents who have fought against the Communist regime have traditionally been persecuted and punished beyond measure.

Foreign Policy’s Asia editor, Isaac Stone Fish, highlighted the downfalls of the Chinese economy based on a barrage of social issues, which are all rooted in the lack of awareness within the nation state at large.

“A full picture of the situation in China–the levels of discontent in different parts of the country, the views of those dissatisfied with communist rule, the prospect of even gradual democratic reform, the potentially catastrophic environmental issues–would make it easier for business people to make smarter decisions.”

However, “smarter decisions” have typically thrived in environments that foster critical and diverse thinking, and Hong Kong’s liberal studies classes may represent the beginning of a new age for the Chinese as a whole.

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