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LCQ11: Textbooks

     Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (May 13):


     Recently, the survey results of an environmental group revealed that quite a number of publishers had attached a large quantity of promotional materials to and used unnecessary packaging for the textbook samples they sent to primary and secondary schools, and the relevant expenditure might jack up the prices of school textbooks.  Moreover, quite a number of parents have relayed to me that the frequent issue of new editions of textbooks has denied them the opportunity to use old textbooks, and the high prices of textbooks impose a heavy financial burden on them.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that some teachers have relayed to me that at present publishers do not provide textbook prices when they send textbook samples to schools, making it impossible for schools to take into account the price factor when selecting textbooks, and this situation has indirectly increased the financial burden on parents, whether the Government will request publishers to provide information on textbook prices when they send textbook samples to schools; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it will consider assessing more stringently if new editions of textbooks are really necessary; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) in view of the forthcoming implementation of the new senior secondary academic structure, and that the contents of senior secondary school textbooks will be drastically altered, whether the Government will consider seizing this opportunity to review the existing policies and measures for monitoring and regulating the publication of textbooks; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The Education Bureau (EDB) has always paid close attention to the issue of textbook prices, and has communicated with the textbook publishers' associations, school councils, the Consumer Council, Committee for Home-School Co-operation and ICAC to explore ways to lower the cost of textbooks. With regard to the provision of textbook price information by the publishers to schools for textbook selection, the EDB, in its regular meetings with the textbook publishers' associations and during meetings of the Working Group on Textbooks and E-learning Resources, has already made this request to the textbook publishers' associations.  The textbook publishers' associations have clearly replied that schools would be provided with price information when they select the textbooks.  The EDB has issued a Circular Memorandum (EDBCM052/2009) on "Notes on Selection of Textbooks and Learning Materials for Use in Schools" in April 2009 advising schools not to select those textbooks and learning materials without price information.  The EDB has already listed out the prices of all the New Senior Secondary textbooks and those of each level of primary and secondary school textbooks in the 'Recommended Textbook List' on April 6, 2009 and May 7, 2009 respectively for schools' reference in their textbook selection.  The EDB will continue to step up communication with the textbook publishers' associations so as to provide timely information on textbooks prices to schools.

(b) Under the present textbook review mechanism of the EDB, a "three-year rule of no revision" for textbooks already exists.  All textbooks which have been reviewed by EDB and are recommended to be put on the "Recommended Textbook List" will not be eligible for revision within three years.  EDB has been strictly enforcing this rule. If the publishers wish to revise textbooks that have passed the three-year rule of no revision, they must submit their applications for textbook revision to the Textbook Committee of the EDB and pass its assessment in textbook review exercise.  In cases where there are insufficient justifications for textbook revision or lack of significant improvement in the proposed revision contents as compared with those of the previous version, the publisher's application will not be approved. For minor amendments or information revision in the textbooks, EDB would recommend the publishers to amend the content and information under the category of "Reprint with Minor Amendments".  The publishers should provide free addenda/corrigenda via schools to students using the old versions of textbooks. EDB also requests schools to indicate clearly that "Second-hand textbooks can still be used" against the titles of the 'Reprint with Minor Amendments' textbooks in their textbook lists so as to enable students to differentiate and decide whether to buy new or old textbooks.

(c) EDB is mainly responsible for monitoring the quality of textbooks, and provide guidelines and the Recommended Textbook List for schools' reference in the selection of textbooks.  The Working Group on Textbooks and E-learning Resources Development set up by EDB last year is currently collecting views from the public and conducting an in-depth study on the future development and supply of textbooks (including New Senior Secondary textbooks).  The EDB has just reported the work progress of the Working Group to the Legislative Council Panel on Education on May 11, 2009.  It is anticipated that the Working Group will submit its report and recommendations to the Secretary for Education in September 2009.

Ends/Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:53


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