Outrage as bureau axes subsidies for reading

Top News | Phoenix Un 19 Sep 2016

An association of secondary school headmasters has called on the Education Bureau to restore a reading promotion subsidy that was removed without consultation.

Starting this school year, the government removed the Extensive Reading Scheme Grant that allows schools to buy Chinese and English extracurricular books. The scheme was implemented in 1997 and allowed primary and secondary schools to get subsidies ranging from HK$4,000 to HK$17,000 for each item.

The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools said many headmasters were unaware of the measure until the new school term started.

The association said the bureau announced the measure in a footnote to an accounting document "Expanded Operating Expenses Block Grant User Guideline" issued last month.

"That document shouldn't contain new things or things that we didn't know beforehand," said association chairwoman Lee Suet-ying.

Lee said there were official letters or other notifications to schools whenever there were new measures in the past.

She accused the bureau of sending a "very negative message."

Lee added: "Reading is no more an item that the government and Education Bureau are concerned about. Schools, as a result, will have no more high funding to implement large-scale reading schemes."

She said although each subsidy item may only involve "several thousand dollars," it would help schools a lot as new books are published each year and some need updates.

The bureau earlier said the grant was stopped because the methods of reading promotion had changed over time and schools may allocate resources with flexibility in order to buy books.

"There is some money that must be spent and I believe that needs no flexibility. It's a must to buy books and promote reading," Lee said.

The bureau said yesterday it had consulted primary and secondary school councils and explained the measure before stopping the grant, but did not explain why it was announced only in a footnote.

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