The benefits of electronic school textbooks are compelling. They cost half as much as ordinary books, are easy to locate and manage, can be quickly kept up to date, are environmentally responsible and do not risk a child’s physical well-being when carried in number in a backpack. Unsurprisingly, school boards and districts the world over are speedily adopting them. But such attributes are not so impressive to a Hong Kong government working group, which after a year of study, has recommended a cautious, go-slow, approach.
Among the group’s key suggestions are launching a three-year “promoting e-learning” pilot scheme in up to 30 of our city’s 1,060 schools and giving a one-off grant to buy resources. The conclusions are at vast odds with those drawn by the governor of the US state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in June launched a digital textbook initiative in the name of cutting costs and keeping learning material fresh and relevant. Students are being given free electronic readers, and publishers pushed to quickly make books available. California is by no means at the cutting edge; there are some Hong Kong schools already using the technology.