On February 4, 2021, the Education Bureau (EDB) issued a circular (EDB Circular No. 2/2021
) to advise primary and secondary schools on the implementation mode of national security education (NSE) in the local school curriculum as well as relevant learning and teaching resources. Ungrounded allegations and misunderstandings have been found in the media and the EDB is obliged to clarify as follows:
1. It is legitimate for the Government to implement national security education in Hong Kong
Safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests is an indisputable duty of each and every responsible national in all countries and places around the world. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is no exception. As an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the "one country, two systems" principle as enshrined in the Basic Law. People in the HKSAR also share the duty to protect the security of the country. Hong Kong's students deserve the right to study and learn in a safe and peaceful environment, as well as to receive a quality education. Implementing national security education is also the duty of schools. As Chinese nationals or Hong Kong residents, Hong Kong students have the civic duty to uphold national security and the rule of law for the continued prosperity, safety and stability of Hong Kong. It is a blatant double standard when accepting NSE in other countries, but not in Hong Kong.
2. National security education is a part of national education and should be fostered progressively from a young age
National security education is inseparable from national education. Fostering students' sense of national identity has long been an important learning goal of both primary and secondary education. Like many other areas overseas, Hong Kong's school curriculum has been providing opportunities (via individual subjects, cross-curricular moral and civic education topics and life-wide learning activities, etc) for students to understand the history, culture and development of the country, as well as the Constitution and Basic Law in a progressive manner from a young age. These learning elements are relevant to students of all ages, but their depth and breadth could be adjusted to align with the cognitive development of students at different stages. The view that young children as early as 6 years old can be taught about national security law has been played up in some media with dubious intent. This is indeed a misrepresentation of the EDB's curriculum framework, which broadly outlines the learning elements for the four key learning stages (i.e. lower primary, primary, junior secondary and senior secondary). For lower primary students (usually aged 6 to 9), for instance, the framework outlines some topics related to national education such as the national flag, national anthem, law enforcement agencies, the concept of law abidingness and the names of the offences under the National Security Law (NSL). This helps students gradually understand and develop their sense of national identity, law-abidingness, and rights and responsibilities under the Constitution and the Basic Law. The EDB needs to stress that national security education is not about educating students about the provisions of the NSL per se. Teachers are professionals who should know how to simplify or translate relatively complex concepts in science, values education or about the Basic Law by means of simple and interesting pedagogies appropriate to the age groups of the students. The use of story books, animation and films, games, analogies and references to daily examples are some of the commonly used methods to help young students learn. The EDB sees no reason why NSE cannot be delivered through fun and interesting activities, daily life examples relevant to primary students, and most importantly, the role modelling of teachers. Topics of the national flag, national anthem, giant panda, the Great Wall, as well as appreciation of China's ancient culture and history from vivid examples of Chinese calligraphy, arts, language, festivals, magnificent heritage and buildings (for example, the Forbidden City) are already within the school curriculum and within people's reach. The EDB disagrees categorically with the malicious labelling of NSE as "brain-washing or spoon-feeding young children". To cater for the needs of younger students, the EDB has recently produced an audio picture book entitled "Let's Learn about National Security
" for primary students to learn about the basic concepts of national security through an animated story, without delving into details of the NSL. More interesting resources for young students will be produced in the future.
3. Learning elements related to national security education are integral to the school curriculum
A holistic approach to NSE straddles different domains of national security, ranging from political and military security to aspects such as cyber security, financial security and cultural security, etc. As such, NSE in Hong Kong should not merely focus on the NSL but should also encompass other aspects. Relevant learning elements such as sovereignty, territorial security, cyber security, etc, could be found in subjects such as Chinese History, Geography as well as Information and Communication Technology,and students' learning of these elements from a holistic perspective can take place inside and outside the classroom. In line with the existing approach to implementing Constitution and Basic Law education in schools, learning elements of NSE that are naturally connected with the curriculum contents of relevant subjects are highlighted in the subject curriculum frameworks. In this way, students will learn about national security from different dimensions and schools will adopt a whole-school approach for implementation.
4. Critical thinking skills are prevalent in the school curriculum and relevant to safeguarding national security
Critical thinking is about drawing meaning from available data or statements, as well as examining and verifying their reliability and credibility in order to establish one's views and develop the ability to evaluate arguments using an evidence-based approach. It has been one of the nine generic skills put forth by the Curriculum Development Council since the curriculum reform in 2001 and promoted via the learning and teaching of different key learning areas/subjects for analysing complex and interrelated issues faced by students. Since fake news, hearsay, or unproven allegations could be hazardous to national security, it is imperative that students be given more opportunities and tools to hone their critical thinking skills, with an emphasis on strengthening students' media literacy.
5. Safeguarding national security is the HKSAR’s constitutional responsibility
Safeguarding national security is the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR and also the common obligation of all Hong Kong residents. The NSL is also an integral part of the laws of the HKSAR. Similar to teaching students to obey the law, to distinguish right from wrong, or to respect others, teachers should help students understand the importance of national security from different perspectives by presenting objective facts and rationale such as historical background, moral standards and legal principles. National security should not be taught as if it is a controversial topic. Instead, it should be clearly pointed out that safeguarding national security is the responsibility of all nationals and that there is no room for debate or compromise. Schools should cultivate students' sense of responsibility to safeguard national security together.
February 22, 2021 (Monday)