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LCQ7: Textbook prices

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):


     It has been learnt that quite a number of parents have complained about textbook prices increasing year after year. In this regard, the Education Bureau has implemented the "Policy of Debundling Textbooks and Teaching/Learning Materials for Pricing" (debundling policy) and suggested that schools should take into account textbook prices as one of the criteria for compiling the textbook lists, with a view to reducing textbook expenditure and alleviating the financial burden on parents. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows, based on the textbook lists of all government and aided primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong for the current school year, the five highest and five lowest total textbook expenditures of each grade; moreover, given that some schools now suggest in the notes of the textbook lists that continuing students may not need to or may consider not to purchase individual titles of books, such as dictionaries and reference books, etc., the five highest and five lowest total textbook expenditures of each grade if such titles of books are excluded;

(b) in response to the implementation of the debundling policy, whether the Government has planned to allocate resources to subsidise schools in purchasing teaching materials; if it has, of the amount of resources to be allocated; and

(c) of the short-term and long-term measures or policies put in place by the Government at present to promote textbook recycling; whether such measures will include restricting assignments which require filling in answers or cut and paste exercises in textbooks, in order to support environmental protection and at the same time alleviate the financial burden on parents?



     Our reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a) Since the introduction of the School Management Initiative in 2001, schools have not been required to submit their textbook lists to the Education Bureau (EDB) for approval. Therefore, the information requested is not available. As for students' expenditure on textbooks, the Consumer Council conducts a Textbook Expenditure Survey (TES) annually and publishes the survey report in its "CHOICE" Magazine in September every year for reference by the public. Information on the maximum and minimum textbook expenditure for each secondary and primary level contained in the TES report published by the Consumer Council in the September 2010 issue of "CHOICE" Magazine is attached at Annex.

(b) Currently, schools may use the Operating Expenses Block Grant or Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant to purchase teaching materials. In addition, the EDB provided all schools with a one-off grant in the 2010/11 school year, amounting to between some $30,000 and $70,000 per school, for the purchase of e-learning materials as required over a three-year period. After the implementation of the debundling policy, the EDB will, through the existing mechanism, ensure that schools with genuine needs would have sufficient resources to purchase the required teaching materials.

(c) Through a circular memorandum issued to schools every year, the EDB encourages schools to work with environmental protection agencies and launch various kinds of textbook recycling programmes, such as donation and sale of second-hand textbooks, buying reference books and story books for loan to students and encouraging students to use recycled textbooks. This is starting to show effects. Among the 537 schools (about 48% of all schools in Hong Kong) surveyed by the EDB in 2009, around 27% of primary schools and 55% of secondary schools have organised used-book sale or donation campaigns.  In the long term, the EDB will continue to promote the textbook recycling programmes and assist schools in the purchase of books centrally for reuse by students. As for restricting tasks which require filling in answers or cut-and-paste exercises in textbooks, the EDB considers that it is necessary to strike a balance between students' learning and environmental protection, and such assignments and exercises should not be prohibited indiscriminately. Nevertheless, the EDB will convey this suggestion to textbook publishers and urge them to make improvements accordingly.

Ends/Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:49


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