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Learning to understand a nation: Developing a national education curriculum imbued with Catholic social ethics for Hong Kong’s primary schools

Hei-Hang Hayes Tang (The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong)
King Man Eric Chong (The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong)
Wai Wa Timothy Yuen (The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong)

Social Transformations in Chinese Societies

ISSN: 1871-2673

Article publication date: 14 June 2019

Issue publication date: 29 November 2019

Abstract

Purpose

National identification among young people and the issues about how national education should be conducted have been the significant topics when the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was entering its third decade of the establishment. This paper was written based on data the authors obtained upon participation in a project organized by the Centre for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The project was carried out after the official curriculum, known as the Moral and National Education Curriculum Guide, was shelved due to popular resentment. The project aimed at capturing the timely opportunity for substantial resources available for school-based operation of moral and national education and developing an alternative curriculum about teaching national issues and identification for Catholic Diocese and Convent primary schools to adopt. This paper aims to investigate the nature of this Catholic Project and examines the extent to which it is a counterhegemonic project or one for teaching to belong to a nation (Mathews, Ma and Lui, 2007). It assesses the project’s possible contribution to citizenship and national education in Hong Kong, since the withdrawal of the Moral and National Education Curriculum Guide.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors of this paper worked in an education university of Hong Kong and were invited to be team members of this Catholic Project. The role comprised proposing topics for teacher training, conducting seminars, giving comments to teaching resources, observing and giving feedback to schools that tried out the teaching and designing/implementing an evaluative survey and conducting follow-up interviews with involved parties such as teachers and key officials of the Catholic Centre. Given this, the research involved can be perceived as action research. This paper was written up with both the qualitative and quantitative data the authors collected when working the project.

Findings

This paper reported a Catholic citizenship training project with the focus on a Catholic school project on preparing students to understand the nation by learning national issues analytically. The ultimate goal was to ensure teachers in Catholic primary schools could lead the students to examine national issues and other social issues from the perspective of Catholic social ethics. Though the project arose after the failure of the government to force through its controversial national education programme, this paper found that instead of being an alternative curriculum with resistance flavour, the project was basically a self-perfection programme for the Catholic. It was to fill a shortfall observed of Catholic schools, namely, not doing enough to let students examine social and national issues with Catholic social ethics, which, indeed, had a good interface with many cherished universal values. In the final analysis, the project is not a typical national education programme, which teaches students to belong to a nation but an innovative alternative curriculum transcending the hegemony-resistance ideological tensions as advanced by western literature (for example, Gramsci, 1971; Freire, 1970; and Apple, 1993).

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the literature of Hong Kong studies and citizenship education studies. The results of such an innovative endeavour, which captures and capitalizes the opportunity and resources for developing a national education curriculum in school-based manner. Attention was paid to the endeavour’s nature and its possible contribution to the knowledge, policies and practices of citizenship and national education in Hong Kong amidst deep social transformations. In particular, the paper can add to the specific literature about Hong Kong’s citizenship and national education development since the withdrawal of the Moral and National Education Curriculum Guide. Using an empirical example of Asian schooling and society, analysis of this paper illustrates the way in which development of an alternative curriculum is more innovative and interesting, transcending the hegemony-resistance ideological tensions.

Keywords

Citation

Tang, H.-H.H., Chong, K.M.E. and Yuen, W.W.T. (2019), "Learning to understand a nation: Developing a national education curriculum imbued with Catholic social ethics for Hong Kong’s primary schools", Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 81-93. https://doi.org/10.1108/STICS-10-2018-0015

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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