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LCQ12: E-textbook Market Development Scheme

     Following is a question by the Hon Ma Fung-kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (November 13):


     Applications for the first phase (Phase 1) and second phase (Phase 2) of the E-textbook Market Development Scheme (EMADS) launched by the Education Bureau closed on September 24, 2012 and November 1, 2013 respectively. The completed e-textbooks developed by successful applicants will be automatically recognised for inclusion into the 2014-2015 Recommended Textbook List for e-Textbooks (e-RTL), which is to be drawn up in phases. In Phase 1 of EMADS, the authorities approved 30 applications, but they were unable to enter into project agreements with the successful applicants concerned in respect of three of those applications. It has been reported that seven applications were withdrawn by the successful applicants concerned. It has also been reported that some e-textbook developers considered the terms of EMADS too harsh and the details unclear. In addition, the Government indicated that an interim review on EMADS would be conducted by the Education Bureau. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective reasons why seven of the approved applications in Phase 1 of EMADS were withdrawn;

(b) how the authorities assess the impact, on partner schools' plans to try out the e-textbooks, caused by the fact that one-third of the approved applications in Phase 1 of EMADS either have been withdrawn or in respect of which no agreement has been reached between the successful applicants and the authorities;

(c) whether, during the interim review, the authorities have adjusted the relevant arrangements in Phase 2 of EMADS in the light of the fact that some of the approved applications in Phase 1 of EMADS either have been withdrawn or in respect of which no agreement has been reached between the successful applicants and the authorities, so as to avoid recurrence of similar situations;

(d) of the detailed results of the aforesaid interim review; which and how many stakeholders were consulted by the authorities in the review process;

(e) of the turnout for applications in Phase 2 of EMADS; how the number of applications received compares to that of Phase 1 of EMADS; of the authorities' conclusion and assessment on the turnout for applications in Phase 2 of EMADS;

(f) whether the authorities have established a vetting and quality assurance mechanism for e-textbooks; if not, when they will establish such a mechanism, and how they ensure that e-textbooks developed by non-EMADS participants can be included into the 2014-2015 e-RTL under a fair and open vetting mechanism;

(g) of the authorities' long-term plans or strategies to promote e-learning while promoting e-textbook market development (including improving the hardware and software ancillary facilities in schools, enhancing teachers' training on e-teaching, adjusting teaching concepts and learning models, and assisting publishers in developing electronic teaching materials, etc.); and

(h) whether the authorities intend to establish an advisory committee on the future development of e-textbooks and e-learning, and invite stakeholders to give views on the development strategies for e-textbook and e-teaching; if so, of the details, including the composition of the committee; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) Three successful applicants for Phase 1 of EMADS did not sign the project agreement with the Government in the end out of commercial decision.

(b) The implementation of EMADS is not affected by the withdrawal of individual applicants from the scheme. The e-Textbooks being developed under Phase 1 of EMADS cover major subjects, such as Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics for the primary and junior secondary education; General Studies, Putonghua and Physical Education for primary education; as well as Geography and Life and Society for junior secondary education. While the quantity of e-textbook counts, the quality of e-textbooks developed under EMADS is more important.

     The withdrawal of individual applicants from EMADS has not affected the implementation of the Partner Schools Scheme. We have made substitution arrangements for partner schools affected in accordance with their wishes. Eventually, all the e-textbooks under development have been assigned with partner schools for field testing.

(c) and (d) The Steering Committee on Selection, Quality Assurance and Review for the EMADS is tasked to oversee the development and progress of EMADS, including the monitoring of the quality assurance mechanism. Besides, the Education Bureau (EDB) has also engaged partner schools to field-test the e-textbooks being developed through the Partner Schools Scheme. Under the Scheme, EDB will have pre-meetings with partner schools and developers to discuss the pedagogical requirements in the try-outs and evaluate the quality of the e-textbooks in authentic classroom settings through lesson observations. After the lesson observations, EDB will provide feedbacks to developers for refinement in the design of the e-textbooks. Furthermore, EDB has also set up subject vetting panels for each subject set to ensure the quality of the e-textbooks.

     During the interim review, the Steering Committee made reference to the experience gained under Phase 1 of EMADS, including feedbacks from the partner schools and developers concerned. The try-out process was generally smooth and the feedbacks from different stakeholders were positive. Schools, teachers and students all provide positive feedbacks on the effectiveness of the e-textbooks in enhancing learning and teaching, as well as boosting students' learning motivation. Having regard to the experience gained in the try-outs and the development of e-textbooks in these months, it was found that the project schedule was rather tight. We understand that the development of e-textbooks in Hong Kong is still in embryo, it takes time for e-textbook developers, partner schools and EDB to gain experience and establish collaboration. In view of this, we had allowed a greater flexibility in the first try-out in Phase 1 of EMADS that individual developers and partner schools could discuss with EDB on the arrangement and schedule of the try-outs and we would make adjustment based on the actual situation. As the second and the third try-outs are coming, we would continue to closely collaborate with different stakeholders to overcome the upcoming challenges, thus ensuring the quality of the e-textbooks developed under EMADS. Based on the above experience, we allow applicants to opt for the launch of e-textbooks in the market in either 2015/16 or 2016/17 school year when we launched Phase 2 of the EMADS in August 2013.

     Furthermore, the 20 sets of e-textbook under Phase 1 of EMADS only cover 16 subjects. After consulting the views of the Steering Committee, we have extended the subject coverage in Phase 2 of EMADS to six new senior secondary subjects with more stable curricula in order to attract more potential developers to join the scheme.

(e) At the close of a three-month application period for Phase 2 EMADS on November 1, we received a total of 57 applications from 17 organisations. Most of the applications cover the subjects of Mathematics (20 applications), English Language (8 applications) and Chinese Language (5 applications). The remaining 24 applications cover Computer Literacy, Putonghua, Science, History, Geography, Life and Society, Chinese History, Physics and Visual Arts. There are 34 applications from non-profit making organisations and 23 applications from other organisations or companies.

     There are altogether 143 applications in both phases of the EMADS and we consider the response satisfactory. In addition, seven out of the 17 applicants in Phase 2 of EMADS are successful applicants under Phase I demonstrating that these organisations are fully confident of the e-textbook market. On the other hand, over half of the applicants for Phase 2 are non-profit making organisations indicating that EMADS has successfully attracted developers not originally engaged in textbook development to enter the e-textbook market, thus making the e-textbook market more diversified. In terms of subject coverage, there are applications on new subjects including Science, Visual Arts, Physics, Chinese History and History, etc. Overall speaking, we are satisfied with the application results for Phase 2 of EMADS.

(f) One of the objectives of EMADS is the trying out of a vetting and quality assurance mechanism for e-textbooks. We expect that after the e-textbooks under Phase 1 of EMADS have passed through the quality assurance mechanism in 2014, we can announce the e-RTL as well as the relevant e-textbook vetting criteria. Publishers could by then consider whether to participate in the e-textbook market and develop e-textbooks for use of schools in the 2015/16 school year.

(g) In line with the global trend of harnessing technology to facilitate effective learning and teaching, the Government is committed to the promotion of Information Technology (IT) in education, and has invested more than $9 billion since the 1998/99 school year for the implementation of a wide range of policy initiatives and school support measures in this area, such as the Pilot Scheme on e-Learning in Schools and the EMADS. After the implementation of three IT in education strategies, we have provided the necessary support and assistance for schools to incorporate IT in students' learning activities through schools' IT infrastructure, teacher training, curriculum and resources support, and development of leadership and a learning culture. We will continue to provide the necessary support for schools in the promotion of e-learning, including the use of e-textbooks.

(h) The EDB has set up the Steering Committee on Selection, Quality Assurance and Review for the EMADS and the Steering Committee on Strategic Development of IT in Education. The former is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the EMADS and comprises experienced school principals and teachers, representatives from the business and the IT sectors, as well as representatives for parents, the Consumer Council and the Hong Kong Education City Limited. The latter gives advice to the Government on the development, policy and implementation of IT in education strategies (including e-learning in schools) with a wide representation of members from different sectors including schools, parents and academics as well as IT and publishing industries.

Ends/Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Issued at HKT 13:31


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