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LCQ7: Information technology in education

     Following is a question by the Hon Samson Tam and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (March 3):


     Regarding the promotion of the development of information technology ("IT"กจ) in schools in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of school IT assistants employed by primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by age, academic qualifications and remuneration groups;

(b) of the respective average numbers of school IT assistant vacancies in primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong in each of the past three years, as well as their percentages in the total numbers of such posts;

(c) whether it has assessed the remuneration, turnover rate, development and employment prospects of school IT assistants as well as their influence on IT education; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether it will conduct such assessments in the future;

(d) whether it will consider making school IT assistants permanent professional posts in primary and secondary schools; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(e) given that some members of the education and IT sectors are not satisfied with the low remuneration and lack of employment prospects of school IT assistants, of the authorities' response and measures to address their dissatisfaction; and

(f) given that the Education Bureau has set up a central technical support team according to the recommendation in the Third Strategy on Information Technology in Education, to assist schools and teachers in overcoming the technical problems in implementing school-based IT in education development plans, whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the team's work since its inception; if it has, of the outcome?


(a) and (b) The Education Bureau (EDB) provides schools with annual recurrent grants for their operation, namely, the Operating Expenses Block Grant (OEBG) for schools yet to form an Incorporated Management Committee (IMC) and the Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant (EOEBG) for those with IMCs.  The Composite Information Technology Grant (CITG) is one of the constituent grants.  Under the policy and principle of school-based management, schools enjoy flexibility in deploying their recurrent grants to suit their own needs.  For instance, in the 2008/09 school year, the OEBG received by a non-IMC secondary school operating 29 classes was about $5.4 million, including a CITG of some $340,000.  Depending on their needs, schools may deploy their OEBG to procure information technology (IT) technical support services from the IT sector or directly employ IT assistants.  As such, the EDB does not maintain statistics on the actual number and age of school-based IT assistants or the number of vacancies of such posts.

     Notwithstanding the above, when reviewing the ambit and provision of the CITG in 2008, the EDB conducted a sample survey on schools' expenditure of IT in education related activities, including information relating to the academic qualifications and remuneration of IT assistants.  According to the survey, academic qualifications of school-based IT assistants were usually above Secondary seven, with at least one year's relevant working experience.  Their monthly salaries were close to the market pay rates, ranging from about $9,000 to $12,000.

(c) to (e) Regarding the remuneration, turnover rate and employment prospects of IT assistants, our assessment and view are that, to ensure that IT technical support services can effectively support school operation and would not adversely affect the implementation of IT in education, schools should use their grants flexibly to offer competitive remuneration in line with the market levels, taking into account their own needs and the market demand and supply.

     In fact, subsequent to the review on the ambit and provision of the CITG in 2008, the EDB increased the level of CITG by 8.3% with effect from the 2008/09 school year, resulting in an increase of provision ranging from $16,000 to $25,000 for each school.  The average amount of CITG for each primary and secondary school in the 2009/10 school year were $299,000 and $362,000 respectively.  If deemed appropriate, schools may use their resources flexibly to offer better pay and benefits to their IT assistants.

     We do not consider the creation of permanent post for IT assistants the best way to provide effective IT technical support services for the implementation of IT in education.  Under the current funding arrangement, schools are free to deploy their grants to adjust the remuneration of their IT assistants. The establishment of permanent posts will deprive schools of such flexibility.  Moreover, many schools now hire services from IT companies instead of directly employing IT assistants.  Such practice means that IT technical support services will not be affected by staff changes.  Such flexibility will not be available if permanent posts are established.

(f) The "Central Technical Support" Pilot Scheme under the Third Strategy on Information Technology in Education has been implemented since December 2008, primarily providing schools with hotline and on-site support services.  As at the end of January 2010, the cumulative number of cases for the two support services was 153 and 122 respectively.  Issues raised by schools usually concern network problems such as server management, virus or hacker attack, and network system interruption, etc.  For complicated problems, the central technical support team will arrange on-site support to give assistance and professional advice to school IT technicians so as to enhance their relevant knowledge and enable them to solve similar technical problems in schools more efficiently.

     As schools generally lack the experience in network management and identifying potential network security risks, the central technical support team introduced two enhanced services in November 2009, namely, "School Network Performance Assessment" and "School Network Security Assessment".  Since their introduction, the response from schools has been enthusiastic.  As at the end of January 2010, about 85 schools have applied for the two services.  Assessments have been completed for nine of them, and will be arranged for the remaining schools.

Ends/Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:41


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