Thousands of parents and their children have marched in protest at the new curriculum which will, the Financial Times reports, “shape the identity of Hong Kong’s younger generation.”

The plan to bring Chinese national education to Hong Kong schools was announced after Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying was sworn into power.

Secretary for education Eddie Ng told the FT that the new curriculum would bolster students’ knowledge of Chinese current affairs, history and culture. The education program will be compulsory within three years and is aimed at fostering a sense of national identity. But citizens criticized the program, claiming that Beijing is using education to “brainwash” students in Hong Kong. Protesters took to the streets shouting: “We want independent education back! We want critical thinking!”.

Citizens also protested against the ‘China model’ books that were previously distributed to schools in the city to serve as course materials. The book includes a prescriptive guide on how to be a “good child of China” and directs children to shout out in class: “I am proud to be a Chinese”. Ms. Chan, a mother of two, said, “As parents, what we fear is that the course would discourage objective and independent thinking about China”.