There are lots of discussion about national education in Hong Kong recently. We have to clarify the concept of nation, national, education, nation education and the implementation of national education in Hong Kong in order to get a whole picture of it.
What is the crucial factor of a nation? Historical factor only? If yes, why are there some break-ups? Ethnic relation only? If yes, why was USA separated from UK? Why was Mongolia separated from inner Mongolia? Simply territorial factor? Why did not North Vietnam unite with mainland China? How about Belgium and France? How about Lichtenstein and Austria? Cultural relationship only? Why cannot Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan form a united country? Therefore, we can see that there are lots of factors to form a nation.
Let's take a look at Hong Kong. From historical point of view, Hong Kong is separated from Qing Dynasty of China. ROC terminated Qing Dynasty. PRC was established on the soil of ROC. Hong Kong should be closely related to ROC after the death of Qing Dynasty. However, Hong Kong soil is next to PRC. In fact, the traditional culture in Hong Kong is closer to the culture in ROC after Culture Revolution in PRC. For examples, Cantonese, one of languages in East Asia older than Putonghua, is widely spoken in Hong Kong. Traditional Chinese characters in Hong Kong vs Simplified Chinese characters in PRC. Chinese marriage tradition, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism is kept in Hong Kong but not well in PRC.
In my opinion, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to PRC because of the choice of UK and the expectation of PRC. At that moment, ROC is not a UN member and PRC is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
National is an interesting concept in China because it was imported n late 19th century. The people ruled by Qing Dynasty was only called Baixing, literally A Hundred of Surnames. Sometimes they were treated as subjects if there was an open-minded emperor. National means a group of people with common history, custom, culture, language and ethnic living together. They share lots of similarities. If we follow this concept, there are 56 ethnic groups. For each of large five groups, it has its own custom, culture, language and ethnic. The idea of Chinese was invented by Dr Sun Yat Sen in order to team up all the 56 ethnic groups without a good foundation on the values. Nowadays, neither Confucianism, religion, Western values nor Marxism can provide the binding. The absence of values can be observed especially after the economic reform starts. Globalization does not only challenge the idea of national but also brings us the idea of global citizenship. The western countries rely on the idea of social contract, human rights, rule of law, civic society. Everything is in black and white. It is analogue to company model. The society can function if most of members follow the rules. The focus of modern countries shifts to citizenship from nationality. The sense of nationality cannot be well established in Hong Kong.
Education, of course, is very important to the society. It has to deliver knowledge and also foster good character of people. It has to help develop good values with reasoning. It is suitable to deliver knowledge in the format of courses and foster team spirit and sense of belonging in the community activities.
Understanding its own country is the first step of civic and national education. It has to be based on facts and evidences.
It is reasonable to foster sense of belonging in national education. Unfortunately, students are required to understand their own country through emotion according to the national education of Hong Kong. Their rationality may be blinded by emotion. CPC believes of meta-history which authors or authority determines the meaning of history. The materials from PRC could mislead students. For examples, CPC is the successor of Dr Sun Yat Sen, May Fourth Movement was introduced by CPC. CPC was the main force against the Japanese invasion during WWII. CPC was forced to wipe out the Chinese tradition.
On the other hand, sense of belonging is a two-way street. Hong Kong and Canton have the same Lingnan culture. The people in these two areas mainly speak Cantonese. However, Cantonese language is suppressed in mainland and the trias politica principle in Hong Kong was disdained by mainland officials. Thus the sense of belonging and safety is reduced. Recognition of identity is an internal psychological process which is not appropriate to be involved in formal class instead of the common constructive life experience.
In fact, the materials of national education have been gone into other subjects like Chinese, Art, Physical Exercises, Common Knowledge, technology education. The students are trapped in the context of country and their global vision is diminished. The identity of Hong Kong people will not be clear and then the one country two system is undermined.
National education should target nationals. However, from legal perspective, there are only Hong Kong residences. Though about 90% have claimed Chinese, national education should not be applied on the non-Chinese Hong Kong residences. Selective execution of such policy would marginalize the non-Chinese minority.
From educators' point of view, assessment in primary schools is not very professional because the peer-assessment on sense of belonging is involved. Such assessment will rely on external emotional behavior which will be manipulated by students.
Under one country two system, Hong Kong residences do have multiple roles. We should understand country with facts. Chinese History and Hong Kong History should be compulsory. We should study more on the public administration, politics and economy of PRC and Hong Kong. Let students participate more in society to develop the sense of belonging.