The Education Bureau (EDB) shares parents’ concern over textbook expenses. It has implemented a number of price-stabilising measures and provided diversified curriculum resources free of charge in order to minimise parents’ expenses on textbooks. In parallel, we have put in place a safety net which provides subsidies to students in need to ease the financial burden on their parents. Since last year, the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to the local economy, hitting all trades badly. Through our close contact with publishers, we learned that the textbook sector is not immune from this challenge. Nevertheless, publishers have been urged to keep fulfilling their corporate social responsibility and tide parents over by bringing down textbook prices as far as possible. The majority of the publishers have responded favourably. In the coming school year (i.e. 2021/22 school year), the prices for nearly 45% of textbooks will be frozen or even lowered, while the prices for the rest will have a modest rise.
Stabilising textbook prices with a multi-pronged approach
Textbook prices for the next school year are announced on the Recommended Textbook List webpage (www.edb.gov.hk/rtl) today (April 21). Schools may make reference to such information when compiling their own textbook lists. On the whole, prices of textbooks (including printed and electronic textbooks) for the coming school year will be 1.4% up from the level of the current school year (i.e. 2020/21 school year). The EDB will continue to step up price-stabilising measures in a bid to further reduce parents’ textbook expenses. These measures include debundling textbooks and teaching/learning materials for pricing so that those who wish to use second-hand textbooks could choose to purchase only the learning materials they need, tightening regulation of textbook revisions, and encouraging publishers to cut production costs by using appropriate low-cost printing methods.
Providing quality learning and teaching resources with concerted efforts
There are different types of learning and teaching resources available from different sources. Textbooks are not the only materials that can be used to facilitate learning and teaching. Nowadays, use of e-resources in education has become the norm across the globe, and adoption of new learning and teaching modes, such as teaching or offering learning support to students through an online platform, has been increasingly common. The EDB will push ahead with the development of quality e-textbooks, so as to provide schools with another option of learning and teaching resources in addition to printed textbooks.
We have developed a wide range of resources for teachers’ reference, which include learning and teaching kits for different subjects, and other materials on the EDB One-stop Portal for Learning and Teaching Resources (https://www.hkedcity.net/edbosp) and Educational MultiMedia (emm.edcity.hk). Apart from flexibly using these free curriculum resources according to students’ learning needs, teachers may, by capitalising on the advantage of e-resources, update and adapt them as appropriate to meet the actual needs of classroom teaching, facilitate students’ self-study and group-based learning, and enhance learning efficacy.
In selecting learning and teaching resources (including textbooks, school-based teaching materials, library books and other reading materials), schools should lay down clear school-based criteria and set up a review mechanism to ensure that the chosen materials are in line with the aims and objectives of the curriculum, and that the information and contents therein are correct, complete, objective and impartial, with emphasis on equipping students with the relevant knowledge and skills and instilling in them positive values and attitudes through effective teaching strategies. Moreover, schools are reminded that when selecting textbooks and other learning materials, not only should they carefully evaluate their quality and consider students’ learning needs, but also take into account their prices and affordability to parents. Please refer to EDBCM 42/2021 for details about selection of quality textbooks and learning and teaching resources.
Lessening parents’ burden with textbook subsidies
It is the Government’s established policy that no student is denied access to education due to a lack of means. In line with this, the School Textbook Assistance Scheme and the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme are implemented to help needy students cover the expenses of essential textbooks. In the 2020/21 school year, over 250 000 students (i.e. around 36% of the total number of primary and secondary students in the territory) benefited from these two schemes, and the total amount of grants involved was $1.2 billion. In addition, starting from the 2019/20 school year, the Government has been providing each student in secondary day schools, primary schools and kindergartens with a student grant of $2,500 per school year to further alleviate parents’ burden of meeting educational expenses.
We trust that teachers will exercise professionalism in making appropriate selection of textbooks and learning materials for students. With sustained efforts to develop diversified learning and teaching resources, the EDB will make more quality curriculum resources available to schools and students for enhancement of learning and teaching effectiveness.
21 April 2021