There has been no cut in book subsidies, only a reallocation of resources, says Secretary for Education Eddie Ng.
The subsidies range from HK$8,000 (US$1,031) to HK$34,000 per school each year and have been in place for more than 20 years.
But Ng said students’ reading habits have changed considerably since the scheme was implemented, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
He said many of them now use electronic devices and there is no longer a great need to buy printed books.
Ng also dismissed comments that schools had not been consulted about the move.
He said the government had consulted the majority of stakeholders and will continue to do so.
If the schools still want to buy printed books, there are other subsidies available to them, acording to RTHK.
Ng had said publicly that he reads at least 30 books each month and compared reading books to having meals, calling it “a part of life”.
Meanwhile, the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) wants the government to withdraw the decision.
PTU said many educators are upset as the subsidies are important for nurturing students’ reading habits.
The cut started when the new academic year began this month and education officials told schools of the decision in a footnote on a circular just last month.
PTU described the move as rushed, sneaky and unacceptable.
Its president, Fung Wai-wah, accused the government of being a “dictatorship” for not consulting the education sector before making the move.
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