Chinese history lost on many adults: poll
By Louise Ho (HK Edition)
Updated: 2008-01-09 07:22

A new survey has revealed that young Hongkongers have little knowledge of modern Chinese history, prompting the education sector to say more history education is needed.

Commissioned by Radio Television Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program interviewed 536 people aged 18-35 in December.

Of those polled, 67 percent did not know 2007 was the 70th anniversary of the Nanjing massacre, and 70 percent didn't know the War of the Resistance against Japanese Aggression lasted for 8 years.

Similarly two-thirds of young people didn't know the People's Republic of China was established in 1949.

Despite their poor understanding of Chinese history, 74 percent said Chinese history should remain an independent subject in school.

Under Hong Kong's current education system, secondary schools can choose to have Chinese history as one subject or integrate it with other subjects.

In a separate portion of the poll, 56 percent of interviewees agreed that the Japanese government should apologize to China for the Nanjing massacre. And about a quarter of respondents agreed that the Japanese government has the duty "to instill the correct knowledge of history to the next generation."

Commenting on the survey results, Robert Chung, program director of the Public Opinion Program said that the teaching of Chinese history in schools puts too much emphasis on learning numbers.

"To make learning Chinese history more interesting for students, we should help them relate history to daily life," he suggested.

For example, students can learn about Japan and its people through Japanese cartoons, he said.

Among other uses, this method could give students an idea of why the Nanjing massacre happened, he said.

To increase young people's knowledge of Chinese history, the education sector said it was important to give F1 to F3 students a chance to learn it as an independent subject.

Ho Hon-kuen, vice-chairman of the Education Convergence, said that just 81 out of 465 secondary schools in Hong Kong had Chinese history classes in F1 to F3.

He said close to 300 schools had incorporated the subject of Chinese history into liberal studies or humanities. Close to 100 schools do not have Chinese history lessons at all.

"Without an education in Chinese history, our next generation will have twisted values toward our history," he said.

Au Pak-kuen, ordinary executive committee member of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, said young people were more concerned about their own lives and thought less about historical issues.

(HK Edition 01/09/2008 page1)