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LCQ4: Information technology learning support

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (April 22):


     With the development of information technologies in recent years, learning through the Internet has become an indispensable part of primary and secondary education.  Also, the Government set up the Working Group on Development of Textbooks and E-learning Resources in October 2008 to study the research and development of e-learning resources (including e-textbooks).  However, some concern groups have pointed out that, among some 300,000 families receiving grants under the School Textbook Assistance Scheme (especially for some 64,000 recipient families under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme), quite a number of parents indicate that they cannot afford Internet service charges.  Moreover, the findings of the survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department between July and September 2008 showed that, among the 728,000 primary and secondary students aged 10 or above, about 21,400 (i.e. 2.9%) of them did not have any computer and access to the Internet at home.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will consider including Internet service charges in the School Textbook Assistance Scheme, so as to narrow the digital divide; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(b) how the Government helps primary and secondary students from low-income families who do not have any computer and access to the Internet at home to learn via e-textbooks?



(a) The existing School Textbook Assistance Scheme is to provide financial assistance to needy primary and secondary students for purchasing essential textbooks and covering the costs of miscellaneous school-related expenses.  In the 2007/08 school year, the actual disbursement of the Scheme amounted to over $440 million.  In considering whether and how the scope of the Scheme should be expanded, we need to give regard to the priority of other education initiatives and the availability of public resources.

     On information technology learning support, we recognise that information technologies are conducive to students' learning.  We have therefore put in a large amount of resources to equip schools with adequate computer facilities.  We have also introduced various measures to help students from low-income families to gain access to computers and the Internet for their learning.

     We grant recurrent subsidies to all primary and secondary schools annually to enable them to open their computer rooms and related facilities outside school hours for use by students with a need.  In addition, computer and Internet access facilities are available for use by students free of charge at various locations across the territory.  For example, 136 Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres and 66 public libraries currently provide more than 1,700 computer workstations with Internet access.  Students can have access to many of these facilities even in evenings and during weekends.

     The Government has also introduced programmes to provide needy students with recycled computers and home Internet access service.  A new round of Computer Recycling Programme lasting for two years was launched in February 2009.  Families receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance or School Textbook Assistance are eligible.  Successful student applicants will be provided with one set of recycled computer and one-year of free Internet access service.  Beneficiaries may also choose to join a favourable Internet access service plan for two subsequent years, the details of which are being discussed between the Government and the designated Internet service provider.  We believe that the Computer Recycling Programme can help those students in need.

     We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will evaluate the effectiveness of the Computer Recycling Programme in due course.

(b) Details on how the Government helps students from low-income families to have access to computers and Internet for learning are provided in part (a) above.  The Working Group on Development of Textbooks and E-learning Resources is currently studying the way forward for the development of e-learning resources or e-textbooks.  In studying the use and development of e-learning resources, the Working Group will explore and recommend on how to support students from low-income families to use e-learning resources.

Ends/Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:16


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