As mobile phones become an inseparable part of life, schools have come up with policies similar to a government directive in France that bans their use on campuses.
French President Emmanuel Macron implemented a measure that allows students between the age of six and 15 to bring their mobile phones to school, but prohibits their use until the school day is over.
Although the Education Bureau in Hong Kong does not have specific guidelines on mobile phone use, principals and education-sector veterans said local schools have similar policies in effect, ranging from penalties for phones ringing in class to leaving them at the principal’s office.
The bureau may offer assistance, but centralized guidance is not necessary, it said.
Chu Tsz-wing, the principal of Baptist Rainbow Primary School in Wong Tai Sin, said students have to leave their phones at the office before school starts.
“The policy is for easy management,” he said. “They also don’t need mobile phones to talk to their classmates.”
He said the school gives students tablets for studying, but the devices have no mobile network and can only connect to the internet via the school’s wi-fi network.
Meanwhile, James Lam Yat-fung, the principal of Lions College in Kwai Chung, said many parents and students have asked the school to relax its mobile phone policy.
Lam said students can bring their mobile phones to school but have to turn them off.
He said if a mobile phone rings or a teacher finds out it is on, the school will keep it and only later give it to the parents.
“There is a notice at the school’s front telling students to turn off their phones. Teachers will also remind them to turn off their phones,” Lam said.
“If teachers find students have turned on their phones in school or they ring in class a total of five times, the whole class cannot use mobile phones for a month.”
Lam added: “Sometimes there are a few students who forget to turn off their phones, but most of them are disciplined.”
A spokesman for the Education Bureau said: “The school administration guide sets out the basic principles that schools may refer to when formulating and enforcing their school rules. School rules should aim at developing self-discipline in students, thus teaching, guiding and protecting students.”
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said many schools used to disallow students from bringing their phones to schools. But now many schools have relaxed the policy.
Ip acknowledged that it will be hard to enforce a complete ban on students bringing their mobile phones to school as some parents need to contact their children.
While there are no significant problems arising from the issue right now, he said the government should provide assistance when needed.
Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, said schools already ban using mobile phones on campus, so government interference is unnecessary.
“Schools have already done that according to their own situations, and as schools are able to handle it themselves, the government does not need to interfere,” Fung said.
Fung is concerned that additional government intervention might affect school autonomy.