Secretary for Education confirms exclusion of Article 23 from teachers’ Basic Law qualification test

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Christine Choi

13th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) In a recent radio interview today, Secretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin provided clarity on the future of legal education within Hong Kong’s schools, particularly concerning the contentious Article 23. She affirmed that teachers will not be required to field in-depth legal queries from students, acknowledging that educators are not expected to be juridical specialists.

This declaration comes amidst discussions on the integration of national security topics into the school curriculum, following the city’s broader National Security Law implementation. Choi emphasised that the Basic Law and National Security Law Test, which prospective educators must pass prior to employment, will not encompass Article 23.

Choi’s statements suggest a pragmatic approach to teaching legal matters, steering away from transforming teachers into de facto legal advisors. She suggested that if students express curiosity about Article 23, educators should guide them towards engaging with the Secretary for Justice or the Secretary for Security through focused studies, rather than attempting to address complex legal issues within the classroom.

The conversation around Article 23 – a proposed law concerning national security that has been a source of significant debate in Hong Kong – has been a hotbed of controversy and has implications for educational policy. Choi’s remarks indicate that the Education Bureau does not plan to dedicate a specific school subject to Article 23 once the legislation is enacted.

In terms of curriculum development, Choi noted that updates are forthcoming. For instance, secondary students in years 4 to 6 will encounter revised modules such as “Hong Kong under One Country, Two Systems” and “Our Country since Reform and Opening-up” within the Citizenship and Social Development subject. These updates reflect a tailored educational approach that aligns with the different learning phases, from primary education’s focus on general law-abiding principles to the more rigorous legal studies expected at the university level.

Choi also addressed the broader implications of the legal framework on the teaching community and student migration. She advised against speculative interpretations that Article 23’s legislation might trigger a new wave of immigration among teachers and students. Additionally, she highlighted the demographic trends affecting school operations, with falling student populations necessitating some schools to consider merging or ceasing operations.