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					            CBIT 2005

       How Primary Schools
          in Hong Kong
           Respond to
              SARS
Teddy So         teddy@cite.hku.hk
               What has been Done?

After the first IT strategic plan (1998 – 2003)

   •Necessary infrastructure laid

   •Basic IT training provided to teachers

   •Digital education resources collected
Access and Connectivity

   •Primary school:               91 computers     (40)
   •Secondary school:            247 computers     (82)
   •Broadband Connection:        100%
       > 60% have fiber access at 10 – 100 MBPS bandwidth

Student-Computer Ratio
   •Primary:      7.4
   •Secondary:    4.6
   •Special:      2.0

In Hong Kong (mid-2003)
      Students aged 10 or over with Household PC: 91.3%
      These students with Internet connection     92.6%
Teacher Enablement

BIT         50,600 teachers      100%         (100% )
            (including 4,600 teaching assistants)

IIT         35,600              77%           ( 75%)

UIT         12,500              27%           ( 25%)

AIT           2,600               6%          (1-2 teacher/sch.)

IT Pilot Scheme
             Primary:           10
             Secondary:         10

Centres of Excellence (CoE)     20 in various districts
What do these figures tell you?

  What is your impression?
What happened in 2003?
               What happened in 2003?

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak
was first brought to public attention in the end of 2002, with
few and scattered cases reported / found in the mainland
China.

Hong Kong started suffering from the spread of SARS in early
2003.

By May 2003 SARS infected 1,755 people in Hong Kong and
claimed 304 lives.

Around the world there were over 8,000 cases of infections
and 774 were dead (Fox, 2004).
              What happened in 2003?

In Hong Kong many face-to-face contacts were forced to
suspend. People stopped gathering in public places.

SARS also forced many government and school officials in
Asia like Beijing and Singapore to close schools. More than
two million students were affected (Borja, 2003; Radio Free
Asia, 2003).

All schools in Singapore were closed from March 27 to April 6,
2003 (Tan, 2003).
              What happened in 2003?

EMB had to suspend all face-to-face schooling from March 31
to April 22, 2003 (age 14 or above in secondary schools) and
even longer period for primary schools.
              What happened in 2003?
One Beijing Primary School was closed on April 15, 2003.
              What happened in 2003?

Even schools in
Toronto, which is
far from South
East Asia, had
to close schools
because of the
threat of SARS
too
(The Hindu, 2003).
The Impact of SARS on Education
The suspension of class forced educators to think of
new alternative means to continue the learning and
teaching. Although the face-to-face contact mode
was stopped in that period of time, many schools
claimed that they did not stop the teaching and
learning activities, which were conducted in other
means, with the help of IT.
The Impact of SARS on Education
Theoretically if the integration of IT in schools was
completed as stated in the first IT strategic plan, the
threat of SARS which caused the suspension of
schooling would be minimal.

However, what was the reality?
Aims of this Study
The purpose of this study is to report how primary
schools in Hong Kong conducted their teaching and
learning activities in the class suspension period
under the threat of SARS, with the help of
information technology.
Methodology
Survey questionnaires with open-ended questions were
distributed to 130 teachers from 130 primary schools.

92 responses were collected.

Total number of primary schools is 803 in 2003 (EMB, n. d.).

The teachers participated in this study were all primary school
teachers from different schools and teaching different subjects.
They attended the e-learning related refresher training courses
organized by EMB in 2004 and 2005.
Results
 During the SARS period, how did your school           Frequency (N = 92)   Percentage
                                                  (respondents may have        (N = 92)
 continue the teaching and learning?
                                                   more than one choice)

 By mail                                                            42       45.65%
 Parents go to schools to pick up the                               39       42.39%
 homework / worksheets
 Download worksheets from school web site                           39       42.39%
 By phone                                                           16       17.39%
 Learn from intranet / learning platform of                         10       10.87%
 school
 By e-mail                                                            8       8.70%
 Learn from other web sites                                           7       7.61%
 No action at all / Delay teaching and learning                       5       4.44%
 until the end of suspension
 Distribute worksheets to pupils before the                           2       2.17%
 suspension
 Learn from learning platforms provided by                            2       2.17%
 universities
Results                                               Frequency (N = 59)
 What are the factors influencing the use                                  Percentage
                                                 (respondents may have        (N = 59)
 of e-learning in your school?                    more than one choice)
 Pupils do not have computers at home                              32        54.24%
 Resource allocation                                               24        40.68%
 Teachers’ heavy workload                                          19        32.20%
 Hardware problem                                                  16        27.12%
 IT competence of teachers                                         14        23.73%
 IT competence of pupils                                           12        20.34%
 Teachers’ support                                                 10        16.95%
 Existing learning platforms in the market are                       6       10.17%
 not good
 Principal’s support                                                 6       10.17%
 School culture                                                      4        6.78%
 Guidelines from EMB                                                 2        3.39%
 Pupils do not know how to input Chinese                             1        1.69%
 characters
Discussion I
One possible reason to explain why schools still used
traditional ways to communicate with students during the
SARS period was the lack of preparation of schools. Although
the IT infrastructure was well established in all schools in
Hong Kong, as reported by EMB in its document, the sudden
closure of the schools during SARS left most schools and
teachers unprepared.
Discussion I (cont.)
Owing to the rapidly increasing threat of SARS, many parents
voluntarily stopped sending their children to schools, forcing
many schools to stop the face-to-face communication before
the official announcement from EMB. It all happened within a
very short period of time (48 hours) that no stakeholders,
including parents, students, teachers and schools had enough
time to prepare or think about what they should do during the
class suspension.
Discussion I (cont.)
As reported by a qualitative study done by Fox (2004), many
teachers and schools were unprepared for the class suspension.

“The last day of school before the closedown was chaotic. Due to
the timetable commitments on the final day before closedown, form
teachers in my school did not see all their students. … also some
parents had already kept their kids at home, fearing SARS infection
at school.”

“We were given no guidelines or help on what to do or how to carry
on teaching. The school announced no policy … in fact we didn’t
even get the full class list of e-mails till several days later.” (p. 322).

As indicated in table one, only two schools were managed to
distribute worksheets to students before class suspension.
Discussion II
Even they were prepared, were the preparation appropriate?
Discussion II (cont.)
Required IT training received by Teachers in the first IT strategic plan from 1998 - 2003
 Training levels   Contents                                         Skill-based   Pedagogy
 BIT (18           Operating a Microcomputer                              *
 hours)            Word Processing I                                      *
                   Presentation Software I                                *
                   Web Browsing and e-mail Operation                      *
                   Education Software                                                *
                   A Framework of Using IT in Education                              *
 IIT (30 hours)    Word Processing II                                     *
                   Presentation Software II                               *
                   Multimedia Production I                                *
                   Web Page Design I                                      *
                   Internet/Intranet Applications                         *
                   Courseware Evaluation                                             *
                   Chinese Character Input Method                         *
                   Database I                                             *
                   Spreadsheet Operations I                               *
 UIT (30           Daily Operations of Computer Network                   *
 hours)            Integrating IT in Teaching and Learning                           *
                   Multimedia Production II                               *
                   Authoring Language                                     *
                   Web Page Design II                                     *
                   Database II (optional)                                 *
                   Spreadsheet Operations II (optional)                   *
                   Software Integration for Teaching and Learning                    *
Discussion III


Were the primary schools pupils prepared?

1. Chinese Character Input Method

2. Digital Divide
Discussion III
1. Chinese Character Input Method
Interaction is one of the concerns in designing e-learning
materials / activities. Merely downloading learning materials /
worksheets from a school website is not considered a very high
level e-learning activity. However, a prerequisite of designing
e-learning activity with high level interactivity is the learners’
abilities to input characters into the computers. In Hong Kong
the majority of schools use Chinese as the Medium of Instruction
(MOI). One of the learning targets in the area of IT in primary
school is the ability to input Chinese characters before they
graduate and go to secondary school. P. 1 and P. 2 pupils are
too young to learn Chinese Character input methods. Usually
primary school pupils learn how to input Chinese characters in
P. 3 – P. 6. This common practice excludes some real e-learning
opportunities of the P. 1 and P. 2 pupils.
Discussion III
2. Digital Divide

The critical barrier reported by the teacher participants was
“pupils’ lack computers at home” (54%). No matter how advanced
the IT foundation is in schools, if there was no computer installed
at students’ home, or there was no Internet connection, the
e-learning process could not be made possible.

“The biggest headache is the problem of ensuring students’
access to the Internet,” said Dr. Fung from the Baptist University
which provided an e-learning platform for schools to continue the
learning virtually during the SARS period (Borja, 2003).
Discussion III
2. Digital Divide

According to the latest government survey, only 71.1% of families
in Hong Kong have computers at home. Out of those 70%
household, only 90% of them have Internet connection (Ming Pao
Newspaper, 2004).
Discussion III
2. Digital Divide
Discussion III
2. Digital Divide

However, the figures are the average numbers only. In this study,
some teachers stated that:

“Less than 50% of my students have computers installed at home”;
“About 40% of my students do not have computers at home”.

One teacher expressed that
“Many of our students come from lower class with low income and
receiving subsidy from government, many of them are living in
public estates or small rooms. There is only 15% of them can enjoy
using computers at home.”
Discussion III
2. Digital Divide
In response to the Commission on Poverty established in 2005,
the Hong Kong Professional Teacher Union (HKPTU) conducted
a survey on students from P. 4 to F. 7 (Ming Pao Newspaper,
2005). 5,550 questionnaires were collected.

The results showed that 5% of the students (P. 4 – F. 7),
equivalent to 42,000 students in the total population of Hong Kong,
did not have computers at home. 90% of those students were from
low-income families, or families receiving Comprehensive Social
Security Assistance. 61% of those students were living in public
estates, or flats sharing by many families. 43% of them did not
have chance to utilize computers installed in community centers
and schools to learn. As a summary, digital divide is a big
challenge to the possible wide use of e-learning.
Discussion III
2. Digital Divide

References:

   香港七成家庭有電腦

   4萬2千學生家無電腦
Conclusion
The reaction of teachers and schools in Hong Kong during the
SARS period confirms the old saying that merely installing
computers in schools will not allow for automatic integration of IT
into the curriculum. In the first IT strategic plan all schools set up
many IT infrastructures, such as sophisticated computer networks,
broadband Internet connection, intranet, etc. However, this
hardware did not guarantee real use of IT in learning and teaching.
If the challenge of SARS is a test to all schools in Hong Kong,
many schools failed in this test. We need to build up the culture of
integrating IT in the curriculum on other foundations but not
merely IT infrastructure.
Prologue
SARS crisis became a catalyst to schools to apply information
technology in learning and teaching intensively (Fox, 2004).

Since many schools did not know how to respond to this sudden
threat, it provided a chance to the higher institutes to collaborate
with schools:

The Baptist University                            VITLE
The Chinese University of Hong Kong               HOMEWORK
The Polytechnic University                        SMILE

The Hong Kong Education City                      iclassroom
Prologue
In July 2004 the second Information Technology strategic plan of
schools “Empowering Learning and Teaching with Information
Technology” was released by EMB.

Two of the emphases of the second plan were the wide use of
e-learning and wireless technologies in schools. All schools, both
primary and secondary, are expected to set up their school based
e-learning platforms in two years time. Funding from government
was distributed to schools in February and March 2005.
Prologue
Although many teachers, students and parents do not fully
understand what e-learning is, they hold much positive attitudes
towards the use of information technology in learning as
compared to the pre-SARS era. Some schools use online
education permanently for after-school learning:

"Our students and parents have experienced how useful
[information technology] can be in school education. Now,
teachers see IT as an ordinary teaching tool.” (Borja, 2003).



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Primary Schools in Hong Kong Respond to SARS.doc
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