What's wrong with more worldly students?

Editorial | Mary Ma 1 Feb 2019

Pro-government lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king's call to include international curriculum in local subsidized schools is bound to resonate with parents, especially those in the middle class.

However, it's a bit ironic that the proposal was made by a prominent leader of the pro-establishment camp, which is expected to defend the administration and its policies, for it's a stance more suitable for the opposition bloc.

The uncharacteristic move by Lee was most likely part of her Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's plan to tilt the middle class toward them - especially since seats in the Legislative Council and district councils are up for election this year and next.

Nevertheless, Lee was clever to have chosen the topic because the Diploma of Secondary Education syllabus taught by mainstream schools have been unpopular among parents, who would have opted otherwise had they been given the choice.

I know someone whose daughter, now studying at a primary school, will change to one of the secondary schools run by the English Schools Foundation in August to study International Baccalaureate, after learning basic Chinese skills at her current school.

He isn't alone in this regard - many other parents with the means have been practicing the same tact.

They must be the type of parents to whom Lee referenced - in her speech that kicked off a debate on a non-binding motion to urge the government to make international curriculum part of standard education - as having voted on the education system with their feet.

Lee's speech was directed at the right person in the chamber, for the son and daughter of education secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung had both graduated from international schools before attending Australian universities. In 2017, Yeung told the media he kept his children out of the mainstream because he found the SAR's education system too complicated for them.

And in fact, many of Yeung's colleagues have also sent their children to international schools.

Being a parent with children graduating from international schools, Yeung must have intimate knowledge of the international curriculum - probably even more than that of the DSE that he has the responsibility to improve.

But even if he agrees with Lee's idea, the pair would have to secure the approval of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who's apparently proud of the traditional education she had received. I fear it wouldn't be easy to get her to acquiesce.

On the other hand, it struck me that pan-democratic lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen was fiercely opposed to Lee's proposal, claiming no government in the world would subsidize student places teaching international curriculum.

Is the claim necessarily true? I somewhat doubt it.

It would be difficult for Ip to get his pan-democratic peers to back his objection, since a number of them also have or had children studying at international schools. What's more significant is that opposing Lee's call would antagonize middle-class voters.

As he spoke, Ip was probably concerned that if he agreed with Lee, he might lose votes among teachers, whose support was instrumental to his election via the education functional constituency.

His opposition speech was addressed to teachers - not parents.

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