I am writing to express my opinion on the decision recently made by the Education Bureau to end the Chinese and English extensive reading scheme(ERS) grants. Echoing with my headmasters of secondary schools, I strongly oppose the scrapping of the grants. It is certainly an unwise act to stop such a scheme which is beneficial to stakeholders.
In the scheme, schools are offered with subsidies ranging form $4,000 to $17,000 for each language. Schools can then purchase a set of books consisting of fiction and non-fiction on different topics with the grants.
To the students, the ERS offers books which help them to improve their language and introduce knowledge that may never be taught in lessons. Books, especially the ones written by literati, portray the beauty of a language as sophisticated vocabulary and expressions are used. Students can learn from it and achieve progress in their language skills. Also, a wide range of books introduce interesting topics like astronomy, bio-engineering, music, and many more, which are seldom taught in schools. This will certainly broaden students’ horizons.
Also, the books do not only aim to equip students with knowledge or to turn them into language experts, but they are also meant to be inspirational that students will gain reflection or aspiration of their life and future . Some may understand the importance of hard work after reading the biography of Helen Keller while some may be determined to serve the underprivileged after reading the book about Mother Theresa.
Moreover, the ERS is likely to contribute in the formation of reading habits among students. As the books purchased are often made convenient for students to borrow. For example, some schools distribute the books to all classrooms and allow students to read whenever they are free. It encourages students to read more as they have easy access to the books. Therefore, in the long run, they will have a greater interest in reading and thus form a reading habit which is beneficial to their future life.
To the schools, the extra grants allow them to acquire more books for the good of students within the tight budget. Most of the schools have a tight budget that the subsidies offered by the EDB can only marginally support its huge expenses on providing various teaching resources. Therefore, they mostly cannot afford to purchase plenty of quality books for their students. The grant for the scheme definitely relieves such bafflement and allows the schools to purchase more books in order to facilitate students’ development and learning. Not only will the grants allow the schools to increase the quantity of books available, it will also improve the quality of the books. For example, with the fund, schools can buy more new books instead of sticking to the old, torn books. Also, they can buy some new inspirational but rather expensive books which are well received and with rich contents.
Furthermore, the reasons supporting the EDB’s decision are not convincing enough to justify its action. Eddie Ng, the head of the Bureau explained that the cut on grants was “adequately” discussed by both the department and school representatives. Ironically, many a school reflected that they have never been “consulted” but was merely “informed” of the issue. It shows that the consultation was probably far from enough and might lead to serious blunders on policies.
Also, the EDB suggested that the scrapping of the grants serves as a mean to cut expenses under the command of the Financial Secretary. However, cutting expenses on education should always be the last resort for the government save money as education is an important investment to provide quality human resources for the future of the city. The decision to reduce the amount of education expenditure becomes even more ridiculous when Hong Kong is currently having plenty of financial reserves resulting from years of fiscal surplus.
To conclude, the ERS has its numerous benefits and merits to both students and schools and the reasons provided by the EDB do not make the decision legitimate. So, instead of insisting on the unwise adjustment, it would be sensible for the Education Bureau to reconsider the decision and invest more in education.