PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 12:00am

Make sure IT policy is not just about the technology

The Education and Manpower Bureau has been seeking public views on the way forward for information technology in education. I would like to make a few suggestions. As IT products are rapidly advancing, the government needs a strategy to upgrade school equipment and software. New upgrades are expensive and it is not practical for public schools to simply keep following technology. Still, a timeframe for hardware renewal every three to five years, on a needs basis as practised in the commercial sector, would be needed so students would learn to use reasonably current technology.

The government suggests that the overall English level of students could be enhanced if they were provided with easy access to IT education tools. That is true, but only to a certain extent. Teachers and the EMB should recognise a hidden problem that students' over-reliance on IT tools, such as grammar and spell check, could actually slow them down in mastering the language. Teachers should also foster students' interest in writing, and their abilities to proofread. While teachers should encourage students to actively learn and research on the internet, they should also educate them not to copy others' work. Students should develop their own thoughts and ideas after in-depth learning.

As students may often drag and drop, download cartoons, pictures or music pieces from the web for their projects, they also need to be taught to understand and respect copyright and intellectual property issues.

Although 68 per cent of households have a computer and 60 per cent have internet access, many low-income households may find it difficult to buy equipment and software. The government should work with schools and non-government organisations on solutions, such as a loan programme and extended opening hours at schools for the students in need.


Citizens Party

EMB advice appreciated

This is in answer to the letter by David Wong, for the Secretary for Education and Manpower, 'Choice for minorities' (South China Morning Post, May 14). Mr Wong may have misunderstood my article in spite of my praises to the EMB for its flexibility in opening more local schools to ethnic minority children in districts where they live. I was reacting to the articles headlined 'New education policy damaging' and 'Parents in the dark over new school policy' (May 3).

Mr Wong did not clarify in his letter the Block Grant Award Scheme introduced in 1998 that lured selected local Chinese medium schools to accept non-Chinese-speaking children. That is why I mentioned that the government should also support private non-profit schools accepting these children. In my letter 'Minority get free schooling, under new policy' I was referring to ethnic minority children who are born in Hong Kong or holders of permanent ID cards and were given by the Hong Kong government the privilege to enjoy the nine years of free education if they enrol in local schools.

The United Muslim Association of Hong Kong International Primary School accepts all nationalities. More than 70 per cent of our students are Hong Kong residents. But Mr Wong mentioned it does not receive government subvention 'solely because it is a private school claiming to offer a non-local curriculum'. Does it mean that because it uses English as a medium of instruction its curriculum must be non-local? Since our school began in 1996 students promoted to local secondary schools have fared very well. The exam results of those who go on to the government's Sir Ellis Kadoorie School are always within the top 10.

I want to ask the EMB what are the requirements for a private, non-profit-making school to be eligible for government subvention. I would appreciate if they would help us on this matter instead of exchanging unpleasant views.


United Muslim Association of Hong Kong

NETs' gratuity criticised

The EMB should eliminate the 15 per cent gratuity paid to Native English Language Teachers (NETs) at the end of each two-year contract. While it isn't a mandatory payment, most NETs receive it. Most local teachers don't receive a gratuity. The government already provides most NETs with more than $120,000 a year in housing allowances. So is a 15 per cent gratuity necessary?

The laws of supply and demand should prevail. There are more teachers than jobs, so the government doesn't need to offer more benefits to attract candidates. It could save more than $2 million a year on 500 NETs who earn an average $300,000 a year (excluding housing benefits).

The 15 per cent gratuity essentially pays for NETs' taxes. It is important to remember that the NET scheme was set up as a temporary programme. Cutting the gratuity would help ensure it continues for at least a few years.