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《The Teaching of Chinese in 90 Years》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

The Teaching of Chinese in 90 Years

      On October 13, 2017 the Department of Chinese Studies of the University of Hong Kong celebrated its 90th Anniversary. The exhibition and event were chronicled in a book named Foot Prints.

      Almost a century ago the British saw it important to teach Chinese, its language and culture and history in the newly established university, which taught specialties that were of service to the functioning of a colony, like medicine, civil engineer, arts and science. It was a time when the goals of higher education were clear and wisely deliberated.

      I attended the event with my long-time friend T. C. Lai who was 100 years old. His father the Honlin scholar of the Qing dynasty was the first Reader responsible for the Department of Chinese Studies. With us was also T. C’s son who was a graduate over 30 years ago. Time did run steadily, leaving foot-prints for us to ponder.

      Today, when time is measured by micro-seconds and spent in electronic games and virtual communications, pondering is considered a waste of time. That is why, even when the Department has evolved to be a School, the goals are left undefined and the teaching far fetched from what it used to be. We now witness a daily cry, in the media, how learning Chinese history need be re-installed in schools, and how university graduates have little mastery of the Chinese language and culture. No body seems to notice that teaching requires teachers, preferably with knowledge and scholarship. It is like talking about the non-effective making of breads without good flours and makers. Thus is what we are.

       I attended the celebration. In my mind, it was a documentation or marking of the past, with little to cheer about the future. In person, I had T. C. and his son Jianian with me and, in memory his father the eminent scholar who had weekly dinners with my father in the Island West district. Much of the exhibition is familiar. They should remind us of the standards of teaching, as well as the dedication of teachers. Without these, all the debates about what is vaguely called Chinese studies are but leisure mutters. We should care for the lives of our children and youths. Their future holds the lot of our country and culture. 

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