In case you were wondering about your destiny in Hong Kong, a primary school textbook is here to enlighten you with this fun ‘fill-in-the-blank’ task entitled ‘racial harmony’! The photograph below is going viral amongst parenting, Filipino and teacher forums online and is from the ‘New General Studies P3‘ textbook (Book 6) – ‘Living in Hong Kong’ chapter, published by Educational Publishing House Ltd.
Below is another textbook from the Primary 4 New General Studies book ‘The Wonderful World‘. The chapter is entitled ‘We are a Family‘ and was printed by the same Singaporean publisher, who are currently refusing to respond to enquires by the blog. The activity invites students to specify which ‘race’ people belong to (white, black, brown or yellow).
Pupils can then learn about the “common characteristics of the people of these races” and circle the correct answers…
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White – light skin, tall, flat/narrow nose, thin/thick lips..
Black – very dark skin, tall, flat and wide nose, thin/thick lips, curly hair.
Brown – dark skin, big/small nose, thin/thick lips.
Yellow – yellow skin, blue/dark brown eyes, high cheek bones.
Back in 1999, The Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center criticised Hong Kong textbook publishers for perpetuating stereotypes.
Multiculturalism is now studied at primary level in Hong Kong schools, yet an SCMP story this week revealed that ethnic minority children are being “belittled and stereotyped” in Hong Kong schools. Meanwhile, the UN has expressed concern about about support provided to minorities in learning Chinese, as currently HK has a ‘lingual apartheid’ system whereby minorities are taught in separate schools.
Update 1: The Equal Opportunities Commission has responded to an enquiry by Hong Wrong, stating…
“The EOC believes that educational material should reflect diversity, cultural values, customs, lifestyles and the social realities of Hong Kong. It should not reinforce stereotypes of any kind. We believe that ethnic stereotypes must be viewed with caution.
Education should play a significant role in removing stereotypical perceptions, and schools, teachers and textbooks are catalysts to change. The EOC hopes that the Curriculum Development Institute and the Education Bureau should jointly develop equal opportunities educational materials for schools. Professional development and in-service training for teachers should aim at raising awareness of stereotyping issues and developing teaching skills in handling these issues.”
Update 2: A satirical version has emerged on our sister publication, the Sub-Standard. Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been asked if it will take action and the story has gone viral on news sites throughout the Philippines and Hong Kong. It was also featured on Hong Kong’s TVB News and will feature on Al-Jazeera English on Thursday.