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EDB to introduce competition to textbook and teaching materials market

     The Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, said today (May 31) that the Education Bureau (EDB) would introduce competition to the textbook and teaching materials market so as to provide schools with quality learning and teaching resources at reasonable prices.

     "The implementation of the policy of debundling textbooks and teaching/learning materials for pricing, which was scheduled to take place last year, has been put on hold for one year upon the request of textbook publishers to allow them more time to resolve copyright issues. However, textbook publishers have recently raised the copyright issue again as a reason to delay the debundling of existing textbooks and teaching materials for three years from 2012.

     "These delaying tactics by the textbook publishers are not acceptable," Mr Suen said.

     He pointed out that textbook publishers have been providing large amounts of free teaching materials to schools for promotion purposes. It is believed that these marketing tactics will ultimately lead to an increase in textbook prices. To prevent publishers from passing their production and sales costs on to parents, the EDB has banned schools from accepting donations/benefits or lending services from publishers with effect from April this year.

     To fully examine the impact of the debundling policy on schools, the Secretary for Education has recently met with panel teachers from more than 100 primary and secondary schools. The majority of teachers believe that only a small portion of the teaching materials provided free by textbook publishers are used frequently, while most of the free materials go unused, causing waste and damaging the environment.

     "After listening to the views of the education sector, we consider it is unreasonable for the publishers to request an additional three years to implement the textbook debundling policy.

     "Consequently we now request textbook publishers to provide separate pricing within one year for teaching materials that are most needed by teachers. These include teacher's books, assessment bank materials and discs for listening exercises. We have reiterated that adequate resources will be provided to schools to purchase teaching and learning materials," he said.

     To meet the pressing needs of teachers, the EDB will, as a special measure this year, allow schools to borrow "inspection copies" from publishers for textbook selection. As the first Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination will be held next year, the EDB will also allow teachers of Secondary Six level to borrow assessment bank materials from textbook publishers for reference, which should be returned after the end of 2011/12 school year.

     "Other than this, schools are not allowed to accept donations/benefits or lending services from textbook publishers. Such temporary measures will not affect textbook prices while meeting the objectives of the debundling policy," Mr Suen said.

     "If textbook publishers still refuse to debundle teaching materials for pricing after one year, the EDB will tender out the publication of textbooks and teaching materials to introduce more competition to the market," he stressed.

     To assist teachers the EDB will, in the coming year, develop a one-stop online platform, integrating the large amount of e-teaching resources produced by the Curriculum Development Institute and Hong Kong Education City. The bureau will also enhance the production of teaching materials to meet the needs of teachers.

     "As the distortion of the textbook market is becoming more serious, we will set up a task force to review issues resulting from the debundling policy, in particular the operation of the Recommended Textbook List and how to provide quality learning and teaching materials to schools at reasonable prices," Mr Suen said. The terms of reference and membership list of the task force will be announced later.

     Meanwhile, the EDB has uploaded the Recommended Textbook List for the 2011/12 school year to its website ( today. To enhance transparency of information, this year's list includes a comparison of textbook price with last year, as well as information on whether the textbooks are debundled from teaching/learning materials.

Ends/Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Issued at HKT 17:36


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