Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (February 20):
Regarding the promotion of e-learning, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has plan to grant additional subsidies to schools for purchasing electronic teaching materials as well as computer software and hardware, gearing for the needs in implementing e-learning; whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the Education Bureau One-Stop Portal for Learning and Teaching Resources specially designed for teachers since its launch in May 2012; if it has assessed, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the Government has plan to set up funds to encourage all sectors in the community to develop “Creative Commons contents” and to make such materials available in the public domain on the Internet for teachers and students to use free of charge as they wish; if it has such plan, of the details and the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) whether the authorities will allocate additional resources to schools for procuring of computer and wireless network equipment of more advanced models, and for upgrading the bandwidth of Internet access services, so as to cope with the massive data traffic when a large number of students go online at the same time, gearing to the promotion of e-learning; if they will, of the details and the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) given some comments that the digital divide created by some students not having e-learning equipment will make such students unable to enjoy equal learning opportunities with other students, and that there are also “one computer per student” programmes in foreign countries to provide financial support to students in need, whether the Government has plan to subsidise students from grass-roots and poor families to buy notebook or tablet computers; if so, of the details and implementation timetable of the plan; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) and (b) The Government is committed to the promotion of e-learning and has launched three five-year Information Technology (IT) in Education strategies. In 2007, we launched the Third IT in Education Strategy with focus on assisting schools in drawing up and implementing school-based IT in education development plans; and integrating IT into learning and teaching activities so as to improve students’ learning effectiveness and empower teachers and students to use the right technology at the right time for the right task in the learning and teaching process.
Our major initiatives in the promotion of e-learning include:
(i) Developing an “EDB One-stop Portal for Learning and Teaching Resources”
This portal provides a curriculum-based learning and teaching modules resource bank with appropriate digital teaching resources covering eight Key Learning Areas at all level from Primary 1 to Secondary 6, General Studies at the Primary level and Liberal Studies at the Senior Secondary level; curriculum documents and information on professional development for teachers. The portal currently contains over 6,000 pieces of teaching resources and over 1,000 assessment tasks for teachers’ reference. The cumulative hit rate of browsing the portal amounts to over 80,000 times while the cumulative rate of downloading materials from the “Assessment Tasks Reference” is more than 30,000 times. We will continue to encourage teachers to make effective use of the resources available on the portal through various means; and will consult the opinions of stakeholders in enhancing the content of the one-stop portal to meet teachers’ diversified needs.
(ii) Provision of Funding Support to Schools on e-learning
We provide all public sector schools annually with a Composite IT Grant (CITG) at amounts ranging from $170,000 to $586,000, depending on the school type and the number of classes. The grant in the 2011/12 school year was over $320 million, with an average of $319,000 for primary schools and $411,000 for secondary schools. The grant can be used in expenditure items related to IT in education, such as Internet service fee, upgrading and replacement of IT facilities (including wireless network facilities), purchase of digital resources materials for learning and teaching (including annual subscription/renewal fees for licences & software), etc. Under the principle of School-based Management, schools can flexibly deploy their resources as appropriate to meet their operational needs for IT in education.
Besides, we disbursed an one-off grant of $200 million in 2008 for schools to replace and upgrade their IT facilities and provided another one-off grant of $50 million in 2010 for schools to purchase e-learning resources.
(iii) Implementation of “Pilot Scheme on e-learning”
We launched a three-year “Pilot Scheme on e-learning” in 2010 with a funding support of some $59 million. A total of 61 primary, secondary and special schools participated in 21 research and development projects to explore how e-learning could be implemented in different school settings so as to cater for learner diversity and encourage students to conduct self-directed and life-long learning.
(iv) Encouraging development of e-learning Resources under “Creative Commons”
The flexible copyright terms under “Creative Commons” enable creators to reserve some rights on their copyright materials while at the same time allow others to use their copyright materials at no charge and without any registration procedures. We have all along been encouraging various sectors of the community, in particular teachers to develop e-learning resources under Creative Commons and to make use of the platform of Hong Kong Education City for free sharing and exchange.
(v) Implementation of “e-Textbook Market Development Scheme”
We launched the “e-Textbook Market Development Scheme” (EMADS) in June 2012 with the objectives of facilitating and encouraging the participation of potential and aspiring e-textbook developers to develop a diverse range of e-textbooks in line with our local curricula; as well as trying out a quality vetting and quality assurance mechanism for e-textbooks through the field-testing of e-textbooks in partner schools with a view to drawing up progressively a full-fledged Recommended Textbook List for e-Textbooks suitable for Hong Kong.
We will review and consolidate experience from the development and field-testing of e-textbooks under the EMADS to come up with a set of success factors for the further application of e-textbooks and promotion of e-learning. Based on the review outcome, we will map out our strategy on the way forward in the application of IT in education, including support to schools in the enhancement of their IT infrastructure.
(c) The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) launched the five-year Internet Learning Support Programme in July 2011 to assist students from low-income families to procure affordable computers and Internet access service through two implementation agents. The Government also disburses an Internet access subsidy at full-rate of $1,300 or half-rate of $650 annually to these families. The Student Financial Assistance Agency reviews the level of subsidy annually in accordance with the market price of Internet access service.
According to a survey on digital inclusion of Hong Kong society conducted by the OGCIO in 2011, around 97% of students from low-income families had computer connected to the Internet at home. This indicates that the majority students from low-income families could conduct e-learning at home.