Face Off: Are textbooks outdated in Hong Kong?

Amaanat RekhiShruti Kaur
  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, they debate whether textbooks are still relevant for modern-day classrooms
Amaanat RekhiShruti Kaur |

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Will heavy, print textbooks soon be a thing of the past?

Amaanat Rekhi, 13, South Island School

Technology has transformed the education system in Hong Kong. Online learning has become popular, especially during the ongoing pandemic, and is the main mode of learning in many countries around the world. As a result, older, traditional ways of learning such as reading textbooks are now viewed as outdated.

However, I believe textbooks are irreplaceable and should always hold a special place in education.

The biggest advantage of textbooks is that, unlike digital devices, they provide structured learning. The information in a textbook is well-organised; you do not have to keep switching between websites and reading bits and pieces from articles that may not even be relevant to your needs.

Students can clearly understand the content in a textbook. This helps their learning, making it easier for them to get good marks in exams.

Using technology to learn comes with a lot of responsibility. Firstly, students can easily cheat by searching for answers online, while devices such as laptops and mobile phones, unlike textbooks, risk distractions such as social media and online games. These affect students’ productivity and concentration.

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What’s more, online information may not always be reliable while textbooks are checked multiple times to ensure their credibility.

Further, online learning means that students often have to spend long hours staring at a screen. This increases the risk of them developing computer vision syndrome which includes headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes.

Online studying may provide an easier and quicker way to learn, but in the long run, is it really worth risking your health?

Although hi-tech devices have numerous advantages, removing textbooks from the classroom will undoubtedly have a huge, negative impact on future generations. Online learning can never replace textbooks.

Does learning from home do more harm than good?

Shruti Kaur, 16, YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College

Textbooks have long been the first thing students reach for when they start revising for exams. But this is simply no longer the case in Hong Kong.

Whether the world actually changes more quickly now than in the past is not clear. But we definitely learn about things more quickly, thanks to the power of the internet.

This also means that textbook content has to be changed regularly to help to keep students up to date with the latest information. Often, publishers will come out with a “revised” version of a textbook, which makes the one you bought only a few months ago suddenly irrelevant.

Businesses can make big profits from selling revised textbooks. It’s a great deal for publishers, but not so good for students.

But many publishing companies are facing problems, too. They have found production costs are rising while there’s a massive manpower shortage. This poses serious problems for both the price and quality of textbooks today.

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Textbooks for subjects such as liberal studies and information, communication and technology seem obsolete. Most of the information in these textbooks may not be very useful for students, and is changing almost every day.

Also, they will have to go through hundreds of pages to find the concept they’re looking for. When they are doing homework, they need to be able to find the best available information within a short time. So they will likely go online to find it.

What’s more, textbooks promote memorisation over understanding. Students are not encouraged to ask questions. There’s no room for imagination or curiosity.

As a result, students are “stranded” between textbooks and online learning. This must end. Textbooks should be removed from the classroom, with online learning filling the gap.

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