Educational Television (ETV) is an educational TV programs service offered by public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong under a mandate given by the Education Bureau (EDB). For many decades, the ETV programs have been an instructional tool covering various subjects of the primary and secondary school curriculum.
A government Director of Audit report published in October last year highlighted problems with RTHK’s ETV service, noting that nowadays only a small number of school ETV programs were finding audience. This drew a response from some members of the public, who said the programs looked old-fashioned and were losing in value.
However, according to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), 94.7 percent agreed that the service should be maintained and 93.3 percent also said the ETV had positive impact on students.
Among the surveyed 656 primary teachers of Chinese language, English language, Mathematics and General Studies, around 94.6 percent said they used ETV during their formal classes. Meanwhile, the average number of ETV programs on the four above-mentioned school core subjects that had been watched was between 28.4 and 29.2 per year.
Up to 37.8 percent of the respondent teachers confessed that they rarely use or never use ETV in class, but more than eight out of 10 put the blame on insufficient teaching hours.
Why would the survey results differ so drastically from that of the report from the Audit Commission? First and foremost, the government report did not truly reflect the situation where students see or teachers make use of ETV service. For example, the report did not include students’ own viewing from the Internet, outside the classroom.
Second, the government report just jumped to the conclusion that only a small number of school ETV programs had been watched in 2015-16, even as it noted discrepancies in the number of ETV programs watched in kindergartens, primary school and secondary school. While it was true for cases pertaining to kindergartens (4.4) and secondary schools (6.0), the average number of school ETV programs watched by each class in primary schools stood significantly high at 71.0, meaning that ETV service was still an important instructional tool in the primary curriculum.
Third, the government report did not go into the actual causes as to why teachers were not using ETV programs in their classroom. By only saying that the service was at record low usage, authorities are giving a misleading impression that the ETV programs are not being useful.
That said, there is no doubt that there is still room for improvement for ETV programs.
According to the HKPTU’s findings, nearly 70 percent of the teachers reckoned that ETV programs are not being updated frequently enough.
Given this, the bureau should push for more program productions, particularly on the primary curriculum.
The EDB should also seek feedback from teachers so as to make the content better for curriculum practices.
Up-to-date supplementary teaching materials, such as worksheets and interactive exercises, should be provided along with the ETV programs, which would diversify the function and boost the usage of the ETV service.
More importantly, quite a number of teachers have said that they gave up using ETV programs in class in order to save the time for rushing the schedule. That suggests that primary curriculum may have been too demanding.
To address the various issues and resolve problems, the Education Bureau should conduct a full review and fine-tune the current syllabuses in the primary school curriculum, if necessary, with suitable learning objectives, allowing students to enjoy learning and make them eager to learn.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 23
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]