Under the “five-year-rule of no revision” for textbooks introduced by the Education Bureau in the 2010/11 school year, publishers are required to reduce unnecessary changes to textbooks that not only can help save the environment but can also allow underprivileged students to handily use second-hand textbooks, thereby curbing the rising trend of textbook prices. However, the latest annual textbook revision survey conducted by the Consumer Council on 4 sets of commonly used textbooks shows that notwithstanding 3 sets of total 14 textbooks included on the "Recommended Textbook List" set by the Education Bureau were in compliance of the 5-year rule, the revision of only 1 of the samples was deemed “Necessary”, while 11 were judged only “Marginally Necessary”. Moreover, the prices of all the samples in the survey had risen by 4% to 6% year on year when compared with their old editions, which are higher than the inflation rate of 2.8% in the same period.
The survey was based on the booklists supplied by primary and secondary schools that had participated in a textbook expenditure survey in July and August this year and selected 4 sets of 20 textbooks that were revised this year for analysis. The selected books were relatively popular, comprising 2 sets of Economics, 1 set of Liberal Studies and 1 set of Geography. A panel of 57 adjudicators assessed the necessity of changes in content, chapter sequence, layout and design, and classified them into 3 categories: “Necessary”, “Marginally Necessary”, and “Reprint with Amendments” (meaning revision is unnecessary).
Among the 4 sets of revised textbooks (20 samples), 2 sets in the subject of Economics and 1 set of Geography were referred to the Education Bureau for assessment and were found to be in compliance with the “five-year-rule of no revision”. The remaining set on Liberal Studies, which was last revised 3 years ago, was not accepted for the Education Bureau review and thus the 5-year rule is not applicable. According to the Council’s survey on the 20 revised textbooks, only 1 Liberal Studies and 1 Geography textbooks were judged “Necessary” for revision. The majority (16 samples) were considered “Marginally Necessary” and the remaining 2 Economics textbooks were recommended for “Reprint with Amendments” (i.e. revision unnecessary).
The 2 revised Economics textbooks classified as “Reprint with Amendments” were from the same publisher. In the adjudication report, the panel considered the revised contents were not substantial. Indeed, the old edition was found to be sufficient to enable students to get a good grasp of the topics. The new edition added QR codes in many places to enable access to multiple online resources to facilitate students’ learning but this may also lead to greater reliance on mobile phones. Publishers were advised to adjust the presence of QR codes suitably.
As for the 2 textbook samples classified as “Necessary for Revision”, the opinion of the adjudication panel was not unanimous. In the case of the Liberal Studies textbook, some panellists agreed that the updated examples about the trade war between the US and China, online shopping and microbeads could more closely reflect the real situation in the society today. However, some noted that while the examples in the new edition could improve students’ interest in the subject, the examples quoted in the old edition could still be used. A more economical and environmentally friendly approach would be to separate the information and exercise sections, and to use loose-leaf printing. This would allow underprivileged students to continue the use of second-hand textbooks.
In the case of the 1 revised Geography textbook classified as “Necessary for Revision”, the revision was required to tackle the field test introduced last year and the panel suggested that adding a “field test skills” booklet would help students cope with the new field test in the DSE. The 3 other textbook samples in the same set were judged “Marginally Necessary for Revision”, as the contents in the new editions were only changed slightly with no significant new information but only just some more exercises that serve little learning purpose.
With regard to pricing, all samples had higher prices than their old editions a year ago. The marked prices of all (6) Liberal Studies textbooks increased by $15, from $243 to $258, while the 2 Economics textbooks classified as “Reprint with Amendments” recorded an increase of $4, from $66 to $ 70, representing the highest surge of 6%. For the remaining 12 samples, their marked prices rose up by 4% with the average price of Geography samples increased from around $297 to $309 while Economics samples increased from around $196 to $204.
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