A new private primary school, Chinese Academy, which will open in Causeway Bay in September, wants to integrate international programs with classical Chinese education.

The school has been jointly set up by the Confucius Hall of Hong Kong and the International Chinese Academy Education Foundation (ICAEF), with enrolments being accepted for this September.

“Despite its colonial history and background, Hong Kong has a direct inheritance of classical Chinese culture without intervention and disruption since it opened for trade in 1841,” said Edmund Kwok Siu-tong, Deputy Chairman of the Confucius Hall and Chairman of ICAEF-Confucius Hall School Collaboration Special Committee, in an interview.

Classical Chinese education in Hong Kong was different from similar teachings developed in Taiwan and the mainland China, Kwok said.

Teachers and students can look into Chinese history, which includes sensitive topics such as the June 4 Tiananmen Square incident and Cultural Revolution, from an academic, not political, perspective in Hong Kong, he said.

“Hong Kong’s uniqueness is internationalism and cosmopolitanism,” said Kwok. “We are standing at a strategic position to decide and provide the innovative educational development for the whole of  China.”

Chinese Academy will benefit from sharing a campus with the Confucius Hall Secondary School, at 77 Caroline Hill Road, Causeway Bay. The secondary school’s history and established curriculum will benefit the academy’s pupils.  

Founded by a group of Chinese educators and elites in 1928, the Confucius Hall of Hong Kong is a non-religious scholastic organization.

It is dedicated to the teaching of Confucius philosophies in the development of a person, related traditional educational values as well as scholastic principles and encouraging knowledge of East Asian culture in Hong Kong. Its secondary school was established in 1953.

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Confucius Hall of Hong Kong is a non-religious scholastic organization founded in 1928. Photo: Asia Times

Established in 2015, the foundation is aiming to advance the development of education, focusing on the fusion of Chinese traditional principles and Western modern systems in a contemporary global setting.

Localizing the IB program

The Chinese Academy plans to enrol 84 students: 56 in grade one and 28 in grade two for the new academic year in September. The tuition fee is HK$112,000 (US$14,358) per year and another HK$36,000 per year to pay for construction costs. Kindergarten classes will also begin in 2018. Classes will be taught in both English and Putonghua, with a teacher-student ratio at 1:10.

Chinese Academy would launch a secondary school in 2021 and is likely to adopt the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program, but may fine-tune it, said Alan Chan Yuk-lun, director and chief executive of the International Chinese Academy Education Foundation.

Kwok, a former history professor, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Dean of Students at Chinese University of Hong Kong, expects to launch the Chinese Academy’s fine-tuned IB courses in China several years later.

“There are a lot of IB courses in China, but they are only for those who hold foreign passports, instead of offering them to locals,” Kwok said.

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A Confucius statue can be seen on the campus. Photo: Asia Times

Kwok has had plenty of experience in education. He was a founder and former executive vice-president of Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, which was established in Zhuhai, Guangdong, in 2005.

The college replaced its lessons on Communist Party history, and on Marxism Leninism and Maoism with contemporary Chinese affairs and classical Chinese education in its program. The move came into line with the central government’s decision to revive the country’s traditional culture over the past decade.

Since 1949 to the late 1980s, classical Chinese education was seen as conservative and reactionary in China. There was a major disruption in the teaching of Chinese culture during the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976.

Belt and Road

In the long-term, Hong Kong’s primary and secondary schools should educate students about China’s Belt and Road initiative, which refers to the 21st century maritime silk road and the land-based silk road economic belt, Kwok said. The initiative has had many names since President Xi Jinping unveiled the ambitious plan in 2013 to connect Eurasian countries with China.

“The initiative is not just for the next one to two decades, but for the next century,” Kwok said. As an international city, Hong Kong definitely has a role in the routes, which cover more than 60 countries and regions, he said.

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Chinese Academy will benefit from the history and established classical Chinese education at Confucius Hall Secondary School. Photo: Asia Times

As Belt and Road is actually about the ancient Silk route, students can learn about it through the drama of the Journey to the West, a classical Chinese novel about how the Chinese visited India through Central Asia, he said.

Educators should be innovative and provide students with a dynamic learning environment, where they will be able to interact among themselves and with teachers, Kwok said. “In the digital age, we don’t stay in classrooms.”