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Music classroom as the shifting ground for patriotism: National Anthem Law in Hong Kong

Cheng, Lee


Lee Cheng


Music as an expressive art form can convey meaning and carry emotional associations. It can promote universal values such as anti-war and equality, or political ideology including both pro- and anti-establishment sentiments. As a result, various countries regulate customs and usage related to their national anthems, such as education policies and guidelines on the inclusion of the national anthem in the school music curriculum. Opposition and resistance to such policies are sometimes faced, especially during the legislation and enactment period.
In the 20 years since the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has made a great effort to strengthen its citizens’ sense of national identity, including attempts to introduce “Moral and National Education” as a compulsory school subject and the enactment of the National Anthem Law. The promulgation of the National Anthem Law is currently under debate in the education sector, where concerns have been raised about its influence on civil rights in Hong Kong. So far, the national anthem has been taught at most schools on a voluntarily basis, and the curriculum guide has never required the teaching of its historical background, regardless of its political correctness. Despite a relaxation of the patriotic measures and the absence of punishment, which differentiate this legislation from that of mainland China, countercurrents have been observed among youths and practitioners in the education sector.
The enactment of National Anthem Law has always resulted in a pang of distress at the school and classroom levels, as exemplified in other civil law jurisdictions. While school principals in Hong Kong are obligated to ensure the alignment of teaching content to the curriculum guide, students may have different views on the patriotic agenda of the anthem law, especially given the current tensions in Hong Kong. School music teachers will thus find themselves at the center of the shifting ground between the two poles of the political divide, regardless of whether their own ideology is pro-democratic or pro-establishment. Music teachers in the near future will face the difficulty of deciding how to respond to patriotic obligations versus the will of the students, whether to take an instructive or constructive approach to the subject matter of the national anthem, and whether to incorporate their own views during the teaching and learning process.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Conference Name 20th International Seminar of the ISME Commission on Policy: Culture, Media and Education
Start Date Jul 29, 2020
End Date Jul 31, 2020
Publication Date Nov 9, 2020
Deposit Date Aug 10, 2021
Pages 65-72
Book Title Proceedings of the 20th International Seminar of the ISME Commission on Policy: Culture, Media and Education
Keywords music education, national education, patriotism, national anthem, Hong Kong
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