Friday, November 30, 2012

Hong Kong > Plan to Replace Expensive School Books Moves Forward

November 30, 2012 /  9:54am  /  Fan Feifei

A steering committee on the selection, quality assurance and review of the E-Textbook Market Development Scheme has approved 30 applications from organizations wishing to contribute to the development of e-textbooks. About HK$26 million has been allocated to assist the development, said Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim on Thursday.

Ng said the price of the e-textbooks to be developed will be at least 20 percent lower than the average for their printed counterparts, adding, the price of the approved geography e-textbook is as much as 63 percent lower than the average price of a printed text.

The applications to develop textbooks cover the main subjects of Chinese, English, Mathematics, as well as General Studies, Computer Literacy, and Physical Education. Twenty-one applications relate to primary education and nine are for junior secondary, Ng added.

The applications came from 13 applicants, including non-profit organizations, textbook publishing-related organizations, e-learning resources developers and tertiary institutions.

He added, these applications are expected to harness the benefits of e-features to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching the subjects. It will also increase consumers’ choices, Ng said.

A total of 88 primary and secondary schools will be invited to try the e-textbooks and provide feedback so that developers can enhance design and content. It is expected that e-textbooks will be available for use in the 2014/15 school year.

The Education Bureau will conduct an interim review of the scheme in progress. Based on the outcome of the review, the steering committee will determine whether or not a second phase of e-textbook development is required.

Vice Chairman of Education Convergence Ho Hon-kuen said the government may underestimate the high production costs, since publishers need to invite experts to write e-textbooks and spend money on multimedia production. High inflation should also be calculated, he added. Ho said he feared that the production costs could not be reclaimed even after five or seven years.

He also cited an example from South Korea where an e-textbook plan failed after being promoted for three years. He said the program has already been abandoned owing to its high cost, adding he is not optimistic about the future of e-textbooks.

President of the Hong Kong Parents Association Lai Tsang-hing voiced concerns that e-textbooks may be harmful to students’ eyesight, and open the door to time being wasted playing games online.

In early May, the government proposed to earmark HK$50 million for the textbook development scheme. The money was to help non-profit making organizations to develop at least 12 e-textbooks sets.

The e-textbook could diversify the market and address the current textbook-market monopoly, said former secretary for education Michael Suen at that time, adding e-textbooks could be a desirable alternative to highly priced printed textbooks as the cost should be 20 percent to 50 percent lower.



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