on 28 November 1997
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 173 - STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AGENCY
Subhead 153 Textbooks and stationery grants
Members are invited to approve an expansion of the ambit of the School Textbook Assistance Scheme to include eligible students in Secondary 4 to 7.
Students in Secondary 4 to 7 in public sector schools are currently not eligible for textbook and stationery assistance under the School Textbook Assistance Scheme (STAS), even if they meet the means test and other criteria.
2.With the support of the Secretary for Education and Manpower, the Controller, Student Financial Assistance Agency (C, SFAA) proposes the following changes to STAS with effect from the 1998/99 school year -
- to expand the ambit of STAS to benefit Secondary 4 to 7 students in public sector schools who meet the means test and all the other existing criteria;
- to determine the grants for Secondary 4 to 7 students on the basis of 80% of the average cost of textbooks and stationery for the respective levels of study; and.
- to delegate to the Secretary for the Treasury the authority to set the initial levels of the grants for Secondary 4 to 7 students for implementation in the 1998/99 school year based on (b) above and to revise them annually thereafter having regard to the average cost of textbooks and stationery.
3.At present, Secondary 4 to 7 students in public sector schools who pass a means test and other criteria may receive government financial assistance in the form of school fee remission and student travel subsidy. However, they are not eligible for assistance in the purchase of textbooks and stationery. This has caused financial difficulties to some families, more so in recent years when the cost of textbooks has risen substantially. We therefore propose to extend STAS to these students so as to help alleviate the financial burden on their families.
4.The average costs of textbooks and stationery for the four senior secondary levels differ considerably1. In general, the cost of textbooks for Secondary 4 and 6 is higher because some of the textbooks used at these levels will continue to be used at the next level. To best meet the needs of the students, we propose different levels of grants for each of the four senior secondary levels, instead of a uniform rate as for junior secondary students.
5.Under STAS at present, the level of grant for primary students is the average cost of textbooks and stationery for Primary 1 to 6; that for Secondary 1 to 3 students is 80% of the average cost. We set the latter at 80% on the basis that secondary school books are longer lasting and students may inherit and sell them at the end of the school year. We determine the average cost annually based on a survey of the actual cost of the textbooks required by students at various levels conducted in the summer preceding the start of the school year. In respect of Secondary 4 to 7 students, we propose to set the grants at 80% of the surveyed average cost of the textbooks for each of the levels.
6.When we extend the STAS to Secondary 4 to 7 students with effect from the 1998/99 school year, we will determine the average costs of textbooks and stationery in respect of each level based on a survey to be conducted in the summer of 1998. In line with the present practice of revising the grants for primary and junior secondary students, we propose that Members delegate to the Secretary for the Treasury the authority to set these initial grants based on 80% of the average costs and to revise them annually thereafter based on the same methodology.
7.Based on the projected Secondary 4 to 7 enrolment in public sector schools, the past success rates under the Senior Secondary Fee Remission Scheme2 and the average cost of textbooks and stationery for senior secondary students in a survey conducted for the 1997/98 school year, we estimate that STAS as expanded will benefit about 100 6003 Secondary 4 to 7 students at an annually recurrent cost of $74 million.
8.Subject to Members' approval, we will include sufficient provision in the 1998-99 draft Estimates to meet the cost of the proposal.
9.STAS provides cash grants to eligible Primary 1 to Secondary 3 students in public sector primary and secondary schools (including bought places schools) for purchasing textbooks and stationery. A successful applicant receives a full grant or a half grant depending on the size and income of his family. We revise the grants annually having regard to the average cost of essential textbooks and stationery required by the students.
10. In the 1997/98 school year, a full textbook and stationery grant for a primary student is $1,029 and that for a junior secondary student is $1,683.
Education and Manpower Bureau
1. Based on a survey of the cost of secondary school textbooks and stationery conducted in July 1997 the weighted average cost per student at 1997/98 price level is : Secondary 4 - $2,190; Secondary 5 - $1,370; Secondary 6 - $1,770; Secondary 7 - $740.
2 .We have used the success rates under the Senior Secondary Fee Remission Scheme as reference because the eligibility criteria for that scheme are identical to those for the proposed grant, and apply to the same group of students.
3 .On the basis of the size and income of individual families, we estimate that about 12 200 students will receive a full grant and about 88 400 students will receive a half grant.