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LCQ10: Promotion of a reading culture among students in schools
     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (February 7):
     According to the findings of Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the reading attainment score of Hong Kong Primary Four students in 2016 ranked third among the 50 participating countries and places around the globe. However, the attitudes of Hong Kong students towards reading (including Students Like Reading, Students Confidence in Reading and Students Engaged in Reading Lessons) were unsatisfactory. On the other hand, in the Basic Education Curriculum Guide prepared by the Curriculum Development Council in 2002, "reading to learn" was introduced as one of the four key tasks for achieving learning to learn. Regarding the promotion of a reading culture among students in schools, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the plans and measures implemented in each of the past five school years by the Education Bureau (EDB) in schools to promote a reading culture among students, and set out the relevant information and expenditure by type of school (i.e. primary, secondary and special);
(2) whether a mechanism is currently in place to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of schools in its work on promoting a reading culture among students;
(3) whether schools are currently required to submit to the EDB, on a yearly basis, a report on their work on promoting a reading culture among students; if so, whether the reports received in the past five school years can be made public; if there is no such a requirement, whether there was in the past; if so, when the requirement was removed;
(4) whether it knows, in each of the past five school years, the average figures on the following which relate to school libraries (with a breakdown by type of school):
(i) circulation;
(ii) library collections;
(iii) number of days opened;
(iv) attendances;
(5)  whether it knows, in each of the past five school years, the following information relating to teacher-librarians (with a breakdown by type of school):
(i) the number of teacher-librarians in service (with a breakdown by academic qualification and year of service);
(ii) the number of new recruits;
(iii) the average number of hours of in-service training received;
(iv) the average weekly number of hours of teaching undertaken;
(v) the average weekly number of hours of administrative duties undertaken;
(6) whether it knows, in each of the past five school years:
(i) the number of schools in which teaching assistants, parent volunteers or student volunteers were engaged to provide students reading support;
(ii) the number of schools in which efforts were made to promote the collaboration of reading with other subjects and to promote a reading culture among students;
(7) given that while it is stated in the chapter on "Reading to Learn" in the Basic Education Curriculum Guide (2014) that schools should deploy teacher-librarians to take up professional duties, EDB at present does not provide any guideline on the teaching load and administrative duties for teacher-librarians, whether EDB will:
(i) review the School Library Services Development, including the objectives of school library services and the functions of teacher-librarians; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and
(ii) specify, in clear terms, the maximum teaching load for teacher-librarians, so that they can focus on the provision of school library services, and to properly perform their roles as an information and media specialist, teachers' teaching partner, curriculum facilitator and teaching resources coordinator; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
     "Reading to Learn" has been adopted as a Key Task since the curriculum reform in 2001. We have been striving to develop students' reading abilities and interest through different means with a view to further enhancing their capacity for lifelong learning and whole-person development.
     Throughout the years, many schools have been implementing a variety of reading activities of different scales including morning reading, story sharing, parent-child reading, reading corner, mobile library, reading award scheme, reading day, book exhibition, writers' talk, etc., all of which are conducive to the promotion of a reading culture as well as the nurturing of a reading interest and habit in students. Schools have also been encouraging students to make the most of information technology for extensive reading through different types of reading materials. Many schools have collaboration established among the Chinese Language and English Language as well as other subjects to implement theme-based project learning and reading activities to help students consolidate their learning in language lessons and apply this on what they learn in other subjects to enhance overall learning effectiveness.
     According to the findings of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016, Hong Kong students achieved an overall score of 569 (the average international score was 500), which was considered outstanding by international standards, and Hong Kong ranked third out of the 50 countries and regions participating in the study. However, there is still room for development regarding students' interest and motivation in reading.
     Our reply to Hon Ip Kin-yuen's seven questions is as follows:

(1) To (4) To align with the rationale behind school self-evaluation (i.e. planning, implementation and evaluation) and facilitate schools’ sustainable development, the Education Bureau (EDB) has been encouraging schools to strategically formulate their School Development Plan and Annual School Plan holistically for their major concerns (e.g. promotion of reading), review their effectiveness in a timely manner and seek improvement. The evaluation data concerned are intended for schools' self-evaluation only and need not be submitted to the EDB. Nor does the EDB collect from schools data on the annual average number of books on loan, the number of library books, the number of opening days of school libraries, the frequency of use, etc. On the other hand, the EDB will continue to gain an understanding of schools' progress of work in various aspects and provide professional advice through External School Review, school-based support services, curriculum development visits, etc. The EDB will provide teachers with different kinds of support as necessary, e.g. sharing sessions on good practices, workshops and seminars, with a view to deepening teachers' knowledge of the strategies for promoting reading.
     The EDB has been supporting the learning and teaching at schools through diversified measures. The promotion of reading is a regular task in curriculum development and the expenses on this have been absorbed in the EDB's recurrent expenditure, the breakdown of which is not available.
(5) To (6) The EDB establishes good communication and professional dialogue with schools through curriculum development visits, school visits, focus group interviews, etc. We do not collect statistics on the number of schools with teaching assistants, parent volunteers or student librarians. Nor do we collect information on the number of schools that promote reading in collaboration with subjects or that on promoting a culture of reading in students. We understand that many schools train their students to become student librarians. Primary schools also bring in parent volunteers to be story aunties/uncles to assist the schools in promoting reading.
     The details about the librarians in public sector schools are as follows:
     In the past five school years (i.e. 2012/13 to 2016/17 school years), there were about 440 in-service teacher-librarians in primary schools per year, and about 370 teacher-librarians in secondary schools per year. The figures were similar each year. About 90% of teacher-librarians possessed university qualifications or above. The figures were about the same for primary and secondary schools. Less than 1% of newly-joined teachers worked as teacher-librarians in primary or secondary schools. About 70% of the teacher-librarians in secondary schools taught 16 lessons (Note 1) or less in each cycle whereas about 30% of those in primary schools taught 16 lessons (Note 1) or less in each cycle. The EDB does not have the statistics on the average year of service, average in-service training hours, and time spent on administrative duties each week of the teacher-librarians.
(7) The objectives of school library service and the roles of the teacher-librarian were stated in the curriculum document "Basic Education Curriculum Guide - To Sustain, Deepen and Focus on Learning to Learn (Primary 1-6)" (2014). The EDB webpage entitled "The Development of School Library Services" quoted the objectives and roles as outlined in this document. The EDB put the related objectives into practice, evaluating their direction and effectiveness on an on-going basis through different channels that include the organisation of professional development programmes, focus group interviews, pilot schemes and seed projects, the conduct of school visits and curriculum development visits, as well as the provision of resource packages. At the same time, the curriculum documents are updated in a timely manner. For instance, Chapter 7 of the "Basic Education Curriculum Guide - To Sustain, Deepen and Focus on Learning to Learn (Primary 1-6)" (2014) has suggested for the school head/deputy head to ensure that sufficient capacity and space would be provided to the teacher-librarian so that he/she could carry out his/her major roles and responsibilities effectively. This suggestion has also been reiterated in Chapter 10 of the "Secondary Education Curriculum Guide" published in 2017.
     Teacher-librarians are primarily responsible for planning and managing the daily operation of the school libraries so that the role of a school library as a learning centre can be actualised. In general, teacher-librarians are also responsible for the library lessons, the content and number of which are school-based and dependent on students' need. Library lessons are also designed to match with the objectives of different subject curricula to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching. To enable teacher-librarians to further understand students' learning needs in the subject curricula, and facilitate the planning and management of school library services, schools could discuss with teacher-librarians in taking up teaching duties other than library lessons on a need basis. However, such arrangement should not interfere with the teacher-librarians' role in carrying out the work related to the libraries. The planning and deployment of human resources in individual schools should be school-based and in line with the development strategies, with promoting students' learning as the key emphasis. The EDB reiterates that schools should take "the benefit and interest of students have been given full consideration" as the major criteria for allocation of work. The EDB will continue to strengthen the school leaders’ understanding of the work of teacher-librarians and how their work should be suitably allocated through the existing channels, in order to ensure that the role of the teacher-librarians as well as the role of the school library as a learning centre could be fully actualised. The EDB has no intention of setting a limit for the maximum number of teaching periods for teacher-librarians for the time being, but we will keep in view whether teacher-librarians are given sufficient space and capacity to carry out their duties effectively. A more detailed guide on the duties of teacher-librarians may be formulated when such need arises.
Note 1: The number includes library lessons to be undertaken by the teacher-librarians.
Ends/Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Issued at HKT 18:45
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