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LCQ11: Using information technology to facilitate learning and teaching
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):
     The Education Bureau has been implementing various strategies on information technology (IT) in education and e-learning initiatives since the 1998/1999 school year, with the goal of realising the potential of IT in enhancing the interactive experiences and effectiveness of learning and teaching. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective implementation progress of the six supportive actions as set out in the Fourth Strategy on IT in Education (including (i) enhancing schools' IT infrastructure and re-engineering the operation mode, (ii) enhancing the quality of e-learning resources, (iii) renewing curriculum, transforming pedagogical and assessment practices, (iv) building professional leadership, capacity and communities of practice, (v) involving parents, stakeholders and the community, and (vi) sustaining the coherent development of IT in education), and whether it has reviewed the effectiveness of such actions; if so, of the review outcome and the related follow-up actions; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) since the "Quality Education Fund e-Learning Funding Programme - Provision of Mobile Computer Devices and Internet Services Support" was launched, of the number of applications from schools, the number of students benefitted, the amount of subsidies, and the public expenditure involved, in each of the school years (set out in a table); whether it has considered regularising the provision of mobile computer devices and internet services support for students with financial needs; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) given that there are views pointing out that the capability of implementing e-learning of various secondary and primary schools varies, and school IT technical support personnel (technical personnel) are generally offered salaries below the market level with persistently high turnover rate, whether the Government knows the modes of employment of the technical personnel at various secondary and primary schools, as well as the respective average remuneration levels and turnover rates of the technical personnel engaged under different modes of employment, and whether it has assessed the impact of such employment arrangements and high turnover rates on the sustainability of schools' efforts in implementing IT in education; and
(4) whether it will formulate the Fifth Strategy on IT in Education within the current school year, so as to promote the Government's collaboration with businesses and schools in developing local educational technology, thereby expediting the application and popularisation of the educational technology; if so, of the details and specific timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
     To align with the global trend of harnessing information technology (IT) to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching, the Government has invested over $15 billion since the 1998/99 school year in implementing four strategies on IT in Education (ITE). All the strategies are in line with our education reform that aims to promote lifelong learning and whole-person development of our students.
     Our reply to the Hon Kenneth Leung’s question is as follows:
(1) The Education Bureau (EDB) launched the Fourth Strategy on IT in Education (ITE4) in the 2015/16 school year by adopting a holistic approach to implement six action plans.
Action (1) Enhancing schools' IT infrastructure and re-engineering the operation mode
     We have established WiFi campus for about 1 000 public sector schools over the territory to facilitate students' e-learning using mobile computer devices in class, and the relevant work were completed on schedule. Apart from the additional grant provided under the ITE4, we also disburse the recurrent Composite Information Technology Grant and the Information Technology Staffing Support Grant (ITSSG) to all public sector schools every year.
Action (2) Enhancing the quality of e-learning resources
     In recent years, there has been a significant enhancement of e-learning resources in terms of quality, quantity and variety. Currently, the Recommended e-Textbook List contains 54 sets of e-textbooks, covering different subjects at the primary and secondary levels, and the submission of e-textbooks for review has also become a regular arrangement. The EDB will continue to encourage the development of more e-textbooks in the market to offer more choices for schools.  The Hong Kong Education City Limited (HKECL), which is wholly owned by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, will continue to develop e-learning resources, including procuring quality e-learning resources both in local and overseas. Two batches of e-learning resources have been made available for free use by schools under the eResources Acquisition Project (eREAP) since early 2017. HKECL also helps promote extensive reading in schools through the eRead Scheme, provides schools with resources on educational television through the Educational MultiMedia website, and supplies assessment tools and assignments on subjects including Chinese Language, English Language and Mathematics at the primary and junior secondary levels via an online assessment system, namely the STAR platform. The EDB will give feedback on the solutions and specifications of various teaching resources sharing platforms under HKECL on an on-going manner for further improvement.  Furthermore, the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) will continuously update the free e-learning resources uploaded onto the EDB One-stop Portal for Learning and Teaching Resources.
Action (3) Renewing curriculum, transforming pedagogical and assessment practices
     The EDB will continue to enhance students' programming-related capabilities and has promulgated the updated supplementary document to the primary curriculum on coding education in 2020 and updated the senior secondary Information and Communication Technology curriculum, with relevant learning and teaching resources as well as teacher training in place to provide the relevant support. In collaboration with HKECL, the EDB has developed the online assessment platform, STAR, to support the curricula of Chinese Language, English Language and Mathematics from Primary One to Secondary Three, as well as the associated assessment tools to strengthen the Basic Competencies of students. The platform enables schools to analyse students' capabilities by using eAssessment, which can generate instant assessment reports for teachers' reference.
Action (4) Building professional leadership, capacity and communities of practice
     Since the 2015/16 school year, the EDB has organised a wide range of professional development programmes for teachers, with an average of around 400 events annually, including those organised in collaboration with tertiary institutions and IT industry, to enhance the professional leadership capabilities of school leaders in promoting e-learning, as well as teachers' e-learning repertoire and their ability to use different e-learning tools and resources. In addition, we have set up the IT in Education Centre of Excellence Scheme to provide training and on-site/remote support services and share with schools the good practices and successful experiences on the promotion of e-learning.
Action (5) Involving parents, stakeholders and community
     The EDB continues to work with other government departments and non-governmental organisations to provide teachers with professional development programmes, information kits on e-learning and hotlines to assist schools in undertaking relevant parent education. The EDB, HKECL and the Committee on Home-School Co-operation will continue to co-organise seminars for parents every year, enabling parents to help their children develop a proper attitude on the use of IT in their daily life and study as well as increasing their knowledge of the relevant resources and support available.
Action (6) Sustaining a coherent development of IT in Education
     To sustain the development of ITE, the EDB has been collecting information from schools through different channels, such as school visits, focus group meetings, surveys, case studies, in order to review the effectiveness of various support measures and the changes they have brought to schools.
     Overall speaking, the measures under the six actions have been implemented smoothly and the feedback from schools on e-learning was positive. Schools generally agree that it can help enhance students' learning motivation and self-directed learning ability. The EDB will continue to keep in view the needs of schools regarding the support for e-learning.
(2) The Quality Education Fund (QEF) has reserved $1.5 billion for implementation of a 3-year programme, namely, the Quality Education Fund e-Learning Funding Programme - Provision of Mobile Computer Devices and Internet Services Support (Funding Programme) starting from the 2021/22 school year. Under the Funding Programme, public sector primary and secondary schools (including special schools) and schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme may apply for funding through simplified procedures to purchase mobile computer devices for loan to needy students. The maximum amount of funding for each student is $4,700. Schools may also provide portable WiFi routers and mobile data cards for students who are unable to acquire appropriate Internet services due to the constraints in their living environment. The maximum amount of additional funding for each student in this regard is $1,700.
     The response from the school sector on the Funding Programme is positive. In the 2021/22 school year, 705 schools participated in the programme. The number of student beneficiaries and funding expenditure are shown in the table below. The administrative expenditure involved is absorbed by the resources of the EDB. In the 2022/23 school year, around 450 schools have participated in the programme so far. Details of the number of student beneficiaries and the related funding expenditure are not available for the time being as the EDB is still processing the applications.
  2021/22 school year 2022/23 school year
No. of participating schools 705 Around 450
(as at end-November 2022)
No. of student beneficiaries Around 24 000 Figure not available
Funding involved Around $100 million Figure not available
     All along the Government has kept in view and implemented different measures to support students with financial needs to practise e-learning. One of the measures is disbursing Internet access subsidies to eligible families through the Student Finance Office of the Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency and the Social Welfare Department. The above subsidy scheme will end by August 2024. The EDB is closely monitoring the implementation of the scheme and will review its effectiveness for formulating measures to support the e-learning of students with financial needs on an on-going basis in future.
(3) From the 2017/18 school year, the EDB provides a new recurrent ITSSG of some $300,000 to all public sector primary and secondary schools (including special schools) annually for strengthening IT staffing support to practise e-learning and take forward various education initiatives which will harness IT. The funding amount for the 2022/23 school year is $327,588 for each school. The grant will be adjusted annually in accordance with the year-on-year movement of Composite Consumer Price Index. In line with the school-based management principle and in accordance with their actual circumstances and needs, schools may flexibly deploy the grant, including employing staff or engaging IT companies to provide agency worker(s) to render the required technical support services in school campus. According to our questionnaire survey conducted in the 2021/22 school year (response rate was about 85 per cent), all the responding schools have deployed the ITSSG to strengthen IT staffing support in schools, including employing additional IT support staff, adjusting the remuneration of their serving technical support staff and engaging IT companies to provide the necessary technical support services with agency worker(s). About 77 per cent of the responding schools employed two or more IT technical support staff.
     The disbursement arrangement of the grant described above has already taken into account of the ever-evolving technological development and the differences in development pace and focus of schools on ITE. Changing the mode of operation to include IT technical support staff into permanent establishment may not necessarily meet the genuine needs of schools. Schools in general welcome the ITSSG, finding it useful in helping them to address their manpower problem relating to IT support. The EDB will continue to collaborate with relevant professional teachers' organisations and training institutes to strengthen the support and training for IT technical staff in schools. The EDB does not have information on the average remuneration levels and turnover rates of the IT technical support staff in schools.
(4) Since the implementation of ITE4, various policies, measures and grants have been launched or regularised. Under the epidemic, e-learning and blended learning have become the "New Normal". It is the EDB's strategy to continuously enhance schools' IT environment in terms of hardware, resources and teacher training, thus enabling schools to devise school-based plans for practising e-learning in light of their school contexts and development needs, so as to make good use of IT to enhance learning and teaching effectiveness.
     e-Learning and STEAM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education go hand in hand. The EDB will integrate the strategies on ITE into the planning and implementation of STEAM education, focusing on enhancing students' information literacy and teachers' capabilities in applying IT in teaching (including STEAM subjects). We will work closely with the CDI to support school sector to implement ITE.
     In addition, the QEF has allocated $500 million to support the provision of ancillary facilities for e-learning. The related programme aims to foster in-depth collaboration between the school sector, tertiary institutions, educational and professional organisations as well as the business sector for the development, enrichment and provision of e-learning ancillary facilities such as setting up a platform and developing tools, for sharing learning and teaching resources. Meanwhile, the assessment committee of the programme is considering the applications received and we will announce the results within the 2022/23 school year. The above programme helps promote the collaborations between the Government, business and school sectors to develop local educational technology, so as to accelerate the local adoption and dissemination of education technology.
Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:40
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