Hong Kong government launches HK$48 million school book funding programme
City’s chief executive Carrie Lam says each primary and secondary school will receive HK$40,000 and HK$70,000 respectively to purchase new books in the next academic year
The Hong Kong government will spend HK$48 million (US$6.1 million) per year to subsidise schools in buying new books and organising activities to promote reading, reviving a policy controversially scrapped by the previous administration in 2016.
Announcing the plan on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said starting from the 2018/19 school year, each primary and secondary school would receive HK$40,000 and HK$70,000 respectively to purchase new books.
“More importantly, the extra resources can be used … to promote reading culture among students using different sorts of activities,” she added. “I am sure teachers are very innovative, so they will find the best way to promote reading among the students.”
The Education Bureau used to offer schools in Hong Kong between HK$8,300 and HK$34,500 a year in reading subsidies. But it was abruptly scrapped in September 2016, in response to then financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah’s request for each bureau and department to “enhanced efficiency” by trimming their expenses by two per cent over three financial years beginning in 2015/16.
In the run-up to the chief executive election in 2017, Lam criticised Tsang, her main rival, for launching the cost-cutting plan.
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Before the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam announced that the subsidy would be revived.
“If you look back at my [election] manifesto and my policy address, I have promised … to promote this reading culture,” she said.
Lam added that while it was easy to obtain information fromthe internet, it could not replace the benefits of reading books.
“Reading brings joy, triggers imagination and broadens [readers’] vision … I am a reader, I like reading books because it will enrich my knowledge, it will inspire ideas and thinking and so on,” she said.
The chief executive noted that the subsidy was stopped in 2016 partly because it was then felt that schools should have enough resources to buy books. But the subsidy should be revived as she believed that investing in education was “the best investment” that could be made for the younger generation.
Lam believed the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which operates public libraries in Hong Kong, would be “very willing” to promote its services and co-organise activities with schools.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, a vice-president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, welcomed the announcement.
“It was worrying that international [studies] have shown that Hong Kong students’ interest, confidence in reading has been quite low,” he said. “We need to help them by encouraging them to read.”