Works for classroom IT project 'on schedule'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 December, 1998, 12:00am

The Government's pilot programme to bring computers and high-speed networks into school classrooms is progressing on schedule, an Education Department official says.

Principal education officer Ng Yu-yum rejected speculation that some schools had delayed implementing the IT education scheme.

The speculation referred mainly to delays in building computer networks, which requires reconstruction of school campuses, and tendering for system integrators - both reported to be delayed by slow government approvals.

So far, 10 primary and 10 secondary schools have been selected by the department for the two-year IT education pilot scheme.

The schools are given more resources - 79 personal computers and $3.7 million for each primary school, and 155 PCs and $6 million for each secondary school - than other schools, because they are expected to be pioneers and models for IT education.

Some schools have said they are slightly behind original schedules, mainly because of 'paper communication' with the department.

'But it is not a fault of any party,' said Lai Po Yin, senior teacher at Po Leung Kuk Luk Hing Too Primary School. She blamed the IT inexperience both of the schools and the department.

Tsui Kim, a teacher at Buddhist Wong Cho Sum School, said the civil engineering aspect, such as groundworks to lay cables, was taking time, because the Architectural Services Department also was involved.

Schools which did not complete the computer network during the summer holidays, as some of them had planned, have found it hard to make significant progress since September, because teachers are busy.

According to the Education Department, seven schools have completed their computer networks, and most of the 20 schools are expected to complete building their networks this year.

'A computer network actually does not mean everything for IT education,' the department's Mr Ng said.

While schools were building networks, they also were working on other tasks, such as training teachers, developing teaching materials or preparing for the cultural change to integrate technology with teaching and learning.

'Each school has its own plan, and is on its own steps to implement IT education. We should not measure their progress just by network readiness,' Mr Ng said.

The Government is developing an evaluation scheme for the IT education pilot project.

Education Department senior inspector Sin Tak-wah said he expected the main difficulty schools would have in starting to use IT in education was development of teaching materials.

One industry expert also worried that proper network management would be a chronic problem for the schools.

'Full-time staff is always required in a commercial operation to manage its IT network, which may not be as advanced and complicated as the school's network. How come teachers can manage by themselves?' Hong Kong Computer Society member Cambridge Wong said.

The computer society is helping as consultants on the pilot scheme, although not all of the 20 schools involved have accepted its assistance.

The Government last week re-emphasizsed its 'school-based' management concept for its five-year plan to implement IT education from 1998 to 2003.

It encouraged schools to formulate their own IT plans according to needs.

Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping said the focus at this stage was on how to use IT to improve teaching.

The Government aims to have 25 per cent of school curriculums supported through IT.

The five-year plan summarises government IT education initiatives involving $3.21 billion in capital cost and $556 million in annual recurrent cost.

Measures include distributing PC hardware and Internet access resources to all schools, offering 80,000 training places for teachers, and building an education intranet. ELLA LEE