【明報專訊】WE GATHER that, to promote the study of Chinese history and traditional Chinese culture, the government will announce next week in the next policy address that it will provide secondary and primary schools with $125 million with a view to improving schooling and teacher training. The idea is to help students appreciate, receive and pass on the Chinese nation's culture. It is of course right for one to get to know the history of one's nation. Chinese-history classes are not just about how dynasties rose and fell. In them emphasis is put on how one should conduct oneself. The government should have had Chinese-history study beefed up and made Chinese history a separate subject. It ought to have done so whether ideas of making Hong Kong independent have emerged in recent years.
According to documents the Education Bureau has submitted to the Legislative Council, nearly 60% of those who teach Chinese history in the territory have received professional training of history. They are subject teachers who majored or minored in history in college. However, the percentage of those who majored in history is only 40%. Some educators have pointed out that 60% of those who teach Chinese history do so concurrently. Some of them did Chinese history in matriculation classes, but others did so only until secondary three.
Those who seek to promote the study of Chinese history ought to realise for what purpose they should do so. Nowadays, many have wrong ideas about the subject. For example some "judge the past by present-day standards". They look at what has unfolded in China over thousands of years from perspectives of the 21st century. In the words of the famous late historian Ch'ien Mu, they emphasise "opinion of the times" at the expense of "opinion of history". "He who uses bronze as a mirror can set right his clothes and hat; he who uses history as a mirror knows what causes the rise and fall of a dynasty, and he who uses others as a mirror knows what is advantageous and what is not." It is to understand what happens by using what happened as a mirror that one studies history. History is about what people did. As Mr Ch'ien pointed out, there are differences between Chinese-history ideas and Western-history ideas, and one of them is that, while Western historians traditionally attach greater importance to events than to people, Chinese historians traditionally tend to attach primary importance to people and secondary importance to events. Their different tendencies show Chinese people traditionally consider it more important to show in detail with historical stories how people should conduct themselves and how they can tell the upright from the wicked. If people have such knowledge, the lustre of humanity and hopes can be seen even in a period of turmoil when the wicked are in power and war disasters persist.
Chinese-history teaching cannot be beefed up otherwise than by improving teacher training. Each school should have at least one teacher who specialises in Chinese history. The government made a right step when it decided to spend more than a hundred million dollars on beefing up Chinese-history and Chinese-language teaching in primary and secondary schools. However, Hong Kong boasts nearly a thousand government, subsidised and Direct-Subsidy-Scheme schools. Each of them will get on average just about $100,000. The government must, if it wants to have Chinese-history teaching beefed up, allocate more resources so that the subject will invariably be taught by subject teachers. One may say it is all talk unless it does so.