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September 15, 2011

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Home » Metro » Education

E-textbook project not liked by all

THE city's ambitious plan to lighten students' heavy schoolbags by switching to digital textbooks is facing skepticism from some parents, teachers and publishers.

The Shanghai Education Commission kicked off the digital schoolbag program last year amid parents' complaints about the heavy schoolbags, which harm students' health.

The laptop adopted by the pilot schools weighs only 1.25 kilograms, compared with the schoolbags toting 5 to 10 kilograms of textbooks, notebooks and exercise books.

Another benefit to laptops: Students must consume about 300 traditional textbooks in their 12-year compulsory education, and using digital products is more environmentally friendly as it means less consumption of trees and less pollution caused by the manufacturing of books.

More students are benefiting from the pilot program in the new fall semester.

Education authorities are organizing teachers to compile the digital textbooks and plan to put forward a set of standards to promote the e-textbooks in 2013.

Parents worry

But some parents and teachers oppose the trial program, partly because it requires a large investment of time and energy from teachers and students.

A commission official who declined to be named said they have received an avalanche of complaint letters about the program.

The complaints are mainly from parents who worry that the computer will distract their kids from study and harm their eyesight.

A mother surnamed Xu is a strong opponent because she believes that her boy will surf the Internet from time to time and not pay attention to what the teachers say in class.

"Students' handwriting will become poorer because they will have fewer chances to write when using the digital devices," she added.

The digital classroom is also more demanding for teachers, who need to spend lots of time preparing lessons and developing a new curriculum.

And some traditional publishing houses, which earn great profits from the school textbooks, are feeling the pressure from e-books.

Textbooks and student exercise books account for about 70 percent of the revenue for the publishing industry thanks to Chinese parents' emphasis on their children's education.


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