Updates on Hong Kong Government’s support for online learning by students of low-income families

Updates on Hong Kong Government’s support for online learning by students of low-income families

In the 2010-11 Hong Kong Government Budget, the Financial
Secretary proposed to facilitate Internet learning by students of low-income
families through a two-pronged strategy. It includes the granting of a cash
subsidy on Internet access charges to these families, and offering economical
Internet services and complementary support to the parents and students.

The Internet Access Subsidy has been disbursed annually to
eligible families since 2010/11 school year. The Internet Learning Support
Programme (ILSP),
named "i Learn at home", was launched on 14 July 2011 to help the
eligible families acquire affordable computer equipment and Internet access
service through flexible payment arrangement, and to provide the students and
their parents in these families with user and social support to enable their
effective use of the subsidy and proper use of the associated educational
opportunity. The OGCIO engaged two non-profit organisations, namely The Boy's
and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong (BGCA) and WebOrganic, to implement
the programme in the Eastern and Western parts of Hong Kong respectively.

In February 2016, the ILSP was extended till August 2018. A question
was posed
in the Legislative Council regarding the Government’s plans for
continued support for children from grass-roots families upon the cessation of
ILSP. Two specific potential problems were pointed out: 1) Internet service
fees will be twice of those for the Internet access services subscribed through
the Support Programme because such service is available from only one Internet
service provider for most of the inadequate housing in which those children
commonly reside; and (2) parents of grass-roots families in general lack
knowledge of computer technology and hence are unable to help their children
tackle difficulties in online learning.

Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang,
responded that having accumulated experience over the years and established
good relationships with the beneficiary families and students, the two NGOs
implementing the ILSP intend to continue to provide Internet learning support
services to students from low-income families after the ILSP ends, and are
currently looking into the scope of services and related details.

To support needy students in respect of Internet learning at
home, the Student Finance Office and the Social Welfare Department will
continue to provide Subsidy for Internet Access Charges for eligible families.

In addition, to facilitate Internet learning by students
outside schools, the Government has been providing free Wi-Fi services at all
69 public libraries in Hong Kong. The Office of the Government Chief
Information Officer (OGCIO) also subsidises around 170 study rooms and youth
service centres operated by NGOs to offer free Wi-Fi services, which are
expected to be fully operational by early 2018.

The Education Bureau is equipping all public sector schools
with Wi-Fi coverage in all classrooms to facilitate the use of mobile computing
devices for e-learning. Relevant construction work is expected to be completed during
the 2017/18 school year. This is part of the implementation of the Fourth
Strategy on Information Technology in Education to enhance interactive learning
and teaching experience.

At present, quite a number of schools have implemented Bring
Your Own Device (BYOD) and are using e-learning resources, e-textbooks and
learning management systems to personalise student learning.

The written reply from Mr Yang noted, “The Government
understands that the development of BYOD will increase the financial burden on
students from low-income families. Thus, the Chief Executive's 2017 Policy
Agenda announced that the EDB would invite the Community Care Fund (CCF) to
consider providing subsidy to needy secondary and primary students for
purchasing tablet computers to conduct e-learning.”

The EDB is currently working on the details and will submit
the programme proposal to the CCF for consideration.

In order to nurture talent in STEM-related areas to
facilitate the economic development of Hong Kong, the EDB released the
Computational Thinking – Coding Education: Supplement to the Primary Curriculum
in 2017 and encouraged schools to incorporate elements of coding education into
the relevant curricula to enhance students' computational thinking skills. Professional
development programmes are being organised for teachers to enhance their
ability to implement coding education in schools, and learning and teaching
resources for teachers' reference are being developed.

Mr Yang said that there is no need for parents to arrange
primary students to attend fee-charging courses on coding during off-school
hours, since the coding education provided by schools is considered to be

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