Educators question online plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:00am

An ambitious plan to develop online learning facilities in rural schools throughout the country has been greeted with scepticism.

The Ministry of Education announced a budget of 10 billion yuan (HK$9.4 billion) to develop the programme, which it is hoped will allow the education system to make the 'leap' into the future over the next five years. The money will be used to build satellite receiving centres and computer classrooms across the country, and to develop educational material on CD-Rom discs.

The plan will encompass all primary and secondary schools in rural areas, although most of the money will be used in the less developed central and western parts of the country, said a ministry official.

However, educators in rural areas were not convinced by the plan. They said it looked 'too good', and doubted it could be realised within the allocated time.

Luo Kaihua, an official at the Education Commission of Lin Cang, Yunnan province, said the issue of rural education should be tackled from the ground up.

'Many local families cannot afford to send their children to school. This is a social problem that will not go away just because the government spends money on developing luxury classroom facilities,' he said.

Many teachers and pupils had never touched a computer, he said. On average, there was one computer for every 300 pupils in Yunnan.

Electricity fees may also be a problem for schools in rural communities, where power can cost three times the rate in urban areas, he added. Some say the funds would be better spent on reducing fees and improving basic facilities.