Revision of Textbooks
This paper sets out the present arrangements to reduce unnecessary revision of textbooks, and the situation of textbook revisions in recent years.
Reduction of Unnecessary Revision of Textbooks
2.It is not the Government's practice to censor textbooks. Publishers can freely publish textbooks, and schools can choose textbooks in exercise of their professional judgement and in accordance with the needs of their students. However, to facilitate schools in choosing textbooks, the Education Department (ED) issues a Recommended Textbook List (Recommended List) to schools for reference. If publishers wish to have their textbooks included in the Recommended List, they can send draft copies to ED's Textbook Reviewing Panels (the Panels) for vetting1 . If the textbooks are found suitable for school use by the Panels, they will be included in the Recommended List.
3.Revisions of textbooks have always been closely monitored by ED and in this connection, the Department has agreed with representatives of the relevant publishers' associations on the following arrangements :
- No revision within three years
Except for textbooks of a few subjects such as Social Studies, Economic and Public Affairs as well as Economics which need more frequent updating, no revision is allowed for textbooks of other subjects within three years from the date they are included in the Recommended List. In general, ED will not vet those textbooks which have been revised within three years from the date of listing in the Recommended List and the revised textbooks will not be included in the Recommended List.
- Reprint with minor amendments
Where limited amendments have to be made to a textbook already on the Recommended List, such as updating information or amending errors, publishers should send the proposed amendments to ED for review and may reprint the textbook upon approval. As the reprinted edition contains only a few amendments, students need not make new purchase and can still use the old edition with teachers' assistance.
4.ED issues school circulars at regular intervals to provide guidance on selection of appropriate textbooks (Annex 1). Apart from reminding schools to take account of parents' financial burden and consumer rights in choosing textbooks, ED also advises schools to refer to the Consumer Council's annual survey findings on revisions of textbooks2
. ED also suggests that if old editions can still be used with teachers' assistance, schools should not demand students to purchase and use the latest editions. At present, some schools also arrange second-hand textbook sales for their students.
5.ED is now considering charging fees from publishers for textbook reviews to reduce unnecessary textbook revisions. At present, there are 35 Textbook Reviewing Panels with a total of some 600 appointed members. Apart from ED subject inspectors and curriculum officers, there are also experienced teachers and tertiary academics on the Panels to help review textbooks on a voluntary basis. ED is also studying a proposal to provide honorarium to those Panel members who are front-line educators. The objective is to attract more professionals to participate in textbook reviews, and to improve the quality of textbooks.
Textbook Revisions in Recent Years
6.According to the Consumer Council's surveys, unnecessary textbook revisions have been greatly reduced in recent years, dropping from 21% in 1992 (six out of 28 textbooks) to 2% in 1996 (one out of 44 textbooks). From a random selection of revised textbooks in 1997, no unnecessary revision was detected (out of the eight sets of books examined, revisions to two were found necessary and those to the remaining six quite necessary).
7.Following the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, contents of some textbooks, such as terms, have to be revised in accordance with the Basic Law. Most of these revisions can be made through reprint with minor amendments. Students can continue to use old editions and need not purchase the reprinted ones.
8.ED will continue to monitor revisions of textbooks, to liaise closely with the Consumer Council, and to help schools choose appropriate textbooks by providing them with relevant information. If necessary, ED will also give advice or issue guidelines to the relevant publishers' associations.
1. The Panels will review draft copies of the textbooks to ensure that their contents and organisation are in line with the requirements of the relevant syllabuses issued by the Curriculum Development Council.
2. Published in major newspapers and the "Choice" magazine.