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EDB accepts recommendations in Report of Task Force to Review Learning and Teaching Materials

     The Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, today (December 13) accepted the report submitted by the Task Force to Review Learning and Teaching Materials. The Task Force concluded that there is a need to open up the textbook market to encourage diversified development, so as to provide quality learning materials that offer value for money.

     "The Education Bureau set up the Task Force in June this year to examine and discuss in detail issues in connection with the debundling of textbooks and teaching materials. I have accepted the specific recommendations proposed by the Task Force and would like to express my sincere thanks to the Task Force members for their strenuous efforts and time," Mr Suen said.

     The Task Force opined that, to provide another option in the market, this is an opportune time to further implement e-learning. It  also suggested that e-learning resources move beyond their existing supportive role as resources to complement traditional printed textbooks to the more vital role of "e-textbooks".

     E-textbooks should form a complete and independent set of learning and teaching materials, and will be developed according to curriculum objectives, content and implementation requirements set by the Curriculum Development Council, as is the case with traditional printed textbooks. To assist schools in transitioning and adapting to the new learning mode, the Task Force recommends that the newly developed e-textbooks should provide a print-on-demand function that would allow teachers to print the contents of the textbooks on a needs basis.

     In view of the distortion and monopolisation in the traditional printed textbook market, the Task Force stressed the need to introduce competition in developing the e-textbook market. It therefore recommends that the Government should provide incentives and assistance to attract relevant organisations to join the market with the aim of developing quality and reasonably priced e-textbooks, and to provide users with greater choice of effective learning and teaching resources.

     "We will not introduce a mandatory e-learning policy. It will be implemented gradually depending on the capacity of teachers and students as well as the readiness of schools. Schools interested in adapting the new learning mode will be provided with adequate support.  We will take into account the Task Force's recommendations in formulating the related mechanism and measures to promote the development of e-textbooks. Details of the arrangement will be announced in the first quarter of next year," Mr Suen said.

     "The development of e-textbooks can provide an interactive and diversified learning mode. It can also enhance flexibility in compiling textbooks, as well as reduce the costs of production, printing, storage and logistics. Moreover, individual modules can be priced and put on sale separately, resulting in more affordable textbooks as customers can purchase individual modules according to their needs," he added.

     In addition, the Task Force considered that the existing review system for printed textbooks has been effective in ensuring the quality of textbooks. The Recommended Textbook List (RTL) is also widely accepted by schools as a reference in textbook selection. Therefore, the Task Force recommends that the textbook review system should be further improved to include new criteria so as to keep abreast of the latest developments. These criteria include comprehensive textbook content, suitability for independent use, textbook arrangements, and designs conducive for textbook recycling.

     In order to lessen publishers' risk and lower the entry barrier to the textbook market, the Task Force suggests that the textbook review process be improved by retaining the existing timetable of quarterly submission. Publishers should also be allowed to submit textbooks for a Key Stage (i.e. a three-year block) in batches (i.e. by year level) on a trial basis for subjects deemed appropriate. The Task Force also recommends the use of a "double-blind" system in conducting textbook reviews. Under the new arrangement, non-EDB external reviewers will not be given information on the publishers or writers of the textbooks being reviewed so as to enhance the objectivity and impartiality of the exercise.

     In addition to improving the textbook review system, the Task Force also recommends the enhancement of transparency of information in the RTL to provide consumers with more information on whether learning and teaching materials offer value for money. The Task Force is of the view that commentaries on textbooks can be included in the RTL to enhance transparency and provide more information to facilitate schools' selection of textbooks.  The commentaries will cover those areas of a textbook which score relatively good ratings on the core criteria in the textbook review.

     Moreover, the Task Force recommends that information on comparisons and changes of textbook prices be included in the RTL for parents' information and school's reference in the selection of textbooks.

     "We will implement the recommendations on improvement of the textbook review system in the next round of textbook submission and in the next school year when teachers will need to select textbooks," Mr Suen said.

     The Report of the Task Force to Review Learning and Teaching Materials has been uploaded onto the EDB's website (

Ends/Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:38


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