PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2006, 12:00am

Q Should phones and PDAs be banned from exams?

Why are phones and PDAs even allowed in classrooms? The functions of mobile phones and PDAs have nothing to do with what goes on inside school classrooms.

They should be banned from being used inside classrooms (confiscating them will quickly make the point that they are not allowed). Only teachers should be allowed to use them in case of emergencies.

Back in the old days, even calculators were banned, which obviously is no longer the case nowadays.

If parents urgently need to contact their children at school, they can always contact the school's reception.

I agree with your correspondent who wrote that a pencil and an eraser were all a student needed when taking examinations. We should keep it simple.

Harry Chen, Mei Foo

On other matters...

As a regular visitor to museums that come under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the government, I usually purchase a museum pass, which allows me to enter these facilities free of charge for a period of 12 months.

It also allows me to enjoy a 10 per cent discount on purchases of museum publications such as exhibition catalogues at the museum bookshops.

The 10 per cent discount is only a moderate one, but as it applies to all museum publication purchases, the total benefit, amounting to 'buy 10 copies of the exhibition catalogue and receive one free', has been an attractive incentive for me to buy extra copies as gifts for my overseas friends.

Examples of exhibition catalogues that I have sent overseas are Hunting and Rituals: Treasure from the Ancient Dian Kingdom of Yunnan at the Hong Kong Museum of History in 2004-05, and From Eastern Han to High Tang at the HK Heritage Museum in 2005.

I have bought at least 10 copies of each of these antiquities exhibition catalogues.

I usually keep two copies for myself and send the rest to my friends.

The 10 per cent discount incentive has thus allowed me to share an interest in Chinese art and antiquities with my overseas friends and also to let them know of some of the exciting cultural events that take place in Hong Kong.

At the same time, the museums get to sell more copies of their catalogues.

Without this 10 per cent discount incentive, I would definitely buy fewer copies as gifts.

Earlier this year, after I visited The Silk Road: Treasures from Xinjiang exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, I went to its bookshop to buy multiple copies of the Silk Road catalogue.

To my surprise, I was told by the staff at the bookshop that the 10 per cent discount was now limited to only one copy of the exhibition catalogue per museum pass holder. There would be no discount for the extra copies I had intended to buy.

Instead of buying at least 10 copies, therefore, I cut back and bought only two. For the first copy, I was given 10 per cent discount (for which I had to pay cash; the museum bookshop does not allow payment by credit card for discount items); for the second copy I had to pay the full price.

I returned to see the same exhibition two more times and each time I went to the museum bookshop to ask about the 10 per cent discount for Museum Pass holders and was given the same answer: from now on, the 10 per cent discount applies to only the first copy; additional copies are charged the full price.

Of course, I was unhappy with this new policy, but I did not have time to pursue it further. I just did not buy any more copies.

This incident would have passed without further comment had it not been for the recent Report of the Director of Audit. In chapter 5 of report number 46, entitled Provision of Public Museum Services, paragraph 11 on page 4 states that 'the total number of unsold museum publications in six museums was 209,046, with a total selling price of $24.7 million, and 67 per cent of these publications had been kept for five years or more'.

It was further reported in the news that there was insufficient storage space in some of the museums; in some cases, additional storage space has to be rented, which adds to the operating costs of the museums.

Soon after the Director of Audit's report was made public, television news even showed some legislators and/or civil servants being taken to see the problems posed by the shortage of museum storage space.

It seems odd that on the one hand many museum publications are piling up and taking up precious storage space because they have not been selling well, while, on the other hand, the museum bookshops where these publications are sold are taking away the small but effective incentive for people to buy more museum publications.

Surely, it makes more sense to encourage museum visitors to buy more museum publications, especially those, like me, who would like to buy multiple copies of exhibition catalogues.

Increased sales of museum catalogues and publications would surely be a win-win proposition for all parties concerned.

Lastly, for the museum bookshops to refuse payment by credit card and to insist on cash payment from buyers who enjoy the 10 per cent discount is sheer pettiness, a practice that should not exist in a city with aspirations to be 'Asia's World City'.

In the light of the current Report of the Director of Audit, therefore, I urge the various museum directors/administrators to urgently review the sales policy and practices of their museum bookshops.

Kingsley K. W. Liu

I saw this road traffic sign at London's Heathrow Airport on a recent visit: 'Air quality - Switch off engine'.

I am not aware of this kind of sign being used in Hong Kong but perhaps these could be installed at vehicle waiting areas such as outside schools, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, etc?

Paul Gardiner, Happy Valley


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