My Take

Our children need to read more books, not fewer

Education chief Eddie Ng has claimed he gets through a book a day but now wants to deprive children of the pleasure by cutting subsidies to schools

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 5:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 5:21am

Education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim once bragged that he reads at least 30 books a month. That reminds me of a Woody Allen joke: “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It was about Russia.” Does Ng even remember the titles?

Maybe he does have a genuine love of reading. But that would be hard to square with the Education Bureau’s latest decision to cut book subsidies ranging from HK$8,000 to HK$34,000 a year per local school. You would think encouraging young pupils to develop a love of reading would be something that every educator could agree on. Well, maybe not with our education bureaucrats.

Hong Kong school heads throw the book at Education Bureau’s ending of reading grants

The bureau first said the cut was part of a cost reduction plan at the request of the financial secretary. What? When the government is sitting on massive surpluses? I would hate to know what our government would do to us if it started incurring recurrent deficits.

Now, however, Ng said there was no subsidy cut, just a reallocation of resources, and that schools could find money to buy books from other subsidy schemes. That’s a fine example of bureaucratic obfuscation if ever there was one.

He said young people’s reading habits had changed significantly since the subsidies were first introduced. He also claimed most stakeholders had been consulted.

Young people are nowadays deluged with too many electronic devices, which give them even less incentive to read. That seems to me an even stronger argument for doubling efforts and resources to encourage them to develop good reading habits – rather than cutting a long-standing book subsidy.

No, books and the printed word will never be obsolete. Those who think otherwise have no business in education.

Make reading a joy not a chore, Hong Kong parents and teachers urged

Many senior teachers and school principals say they were never consulted and that they only found out about it from a footnote in a school circular.

I assume Ng and many top officials at the bureau are parents. So ask yourself this: would you rather your child spend hours staring at an electronic screen or reading a book?

I know the bureaucrats don’t know or care about my children. But as a taxpayer, I am paying them to be in charge of their education welfare. So, Mr Ng, do your job.