Schools closedown and lessons learnt: a study of international secondary schools' use of ICT in Hong Kong

Robert Fox
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China
Tannis Waugh
West Island School
Hong Kong SAR, China

In 2003, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS spread rapidly. In Hong Kong, the government put in place measures to help the public guard against the virus, one of which was to close all schools. One million children stayed at home and 50,600 teachers were faced with the challenge of using digital technology to provide an education that would reach beyond school walls into the homes and computers of Hong Kong students. Teachers had to re-think their teaching strategies and provide their students with new and different opportunities to work through curriculum requirements. Students had to re-think how best they could support their own studies from home, especially those preparing for international examinations starting in late April. SARS provided a catalyst for intense use of information and communication technology (ICT) in ways which had not been anticipated or prepared for. The plunge into ICT was a voyage of exciting discovery for some and frustration for others. Either way, it had an impact on subsequent perceptions of the potential and shortcomings of ICT in education in Hong Kong.

This paper focuses on a collective of five international secondary school community perceptions regarding technology-led teaching and learning during the enforced closedown of the schools. It examines what happened during SARS, highlighting the problems encountered and solutions found. The paper then analyses what these schools have done since 2003 to prepare themselves better for any future closedown caused by another potential pandemic such as bird flu. The following research questions are addressed: what happened to student study during SARS; what role did technology play; and what changes have occurred in these schools to prepare them for any future enforced closedown? The study is based on 903 questionnaires returned by school students, 40 questionnaires from teaching staff and purposive sampled interviews with students, teachers and parents using maximum variation sampling techniques.