Debundle or else ...
The government will put textbooks out to tender if publishers do not start selling textbooks and teaching materials separately within a year.
The plan was announced by Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung on Tuesday.
The government wants to reduce hidden costs to customers, such as teaching aids like a DVD that comes with a textbook. At present, there is no option for customers to buy such items separately. As a result, students often have to pay for teaching materials they do not need but which come in a package.
Publishers last year pledged to debundle the selling of textbooks and teaching materials.
Yet Suen was dissatisfied by their assertion that it would take a further three years to implement the change. 'This is exceptionally unhelpful,' he said. 'We cannot tolerate this situation any longer.'
Suen stressed he had public opinion on his side. If publishers fail to begin debundling within a year, the government will launch a tender process. It will also invite schools and academics to bring their own textbooks to a wider market.
According to a survey by the bureau, only 8 per cent of textbooks have so far been debundled ahead of the new academic year.
In a radio programme yesterday, Suen reiterated that there is 'no space for concessions'. He dismissed criticism that the government was using it as an excuse to tighten its control over the content of textbooks.
Wong Wai-man, president of the Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association, said earlier it was 'mission impossible' to carry out debundling within one year because the process involves sorting out some 100,000 royalty cases.