Customs raid rumbles black market for primary school e-learning materials in fiercely competitive Hong Kong

Kids have missed almost an entire year of education due to coronavirus so parents have sought help online

Five people were arrested in Hong Kong this week for selling electronic question banks for primary schools online. Hong Kong Customs detected the operation and seized over 59,000 suspect teaching materials.

The agency was tipped off by copyright owners and a big data analytics team got to work. Hong Kong Customs targeted websites and social media and after an investigation raided four residential premises and one tutoring centre.

One man and four women were arrested. Seized material included the electronic files of Chinese, English, Mathematics, and General Studies question banks as well as five sets of computers, four tablets, a number of USB flash drives, seven mobile phones, and various teaching materials.

Hong Kong pupils have been in and out of school, but mostly out, since early February 2020 as the densely populated special administrative region of China battled COVID.

While learn-from-home regimes have been a globally shared stress, Hong Kong education systems have a reputation for being particularly competitive and pressure-ridden from day one.

A survey from the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) near the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 revealed that about a third of primary school parents said they lacked the patience to teach their children. Half felt they didn't have adequate support from school.

"Without relevant support, parents with limited education will naturally feel pressurized," said Dr Eva Lau Yi-hung, a professor in the Department of Early Childhood Education at EdUHK.

The investigation is ongoing. ®

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