Since the Hong Kong government’s first proposal for promoting the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in its 2015 Policy Address, a number of schools aim to go one step further although they have achieved fruitful results in STEM education. A research conducted by The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups in 2018 found that nearly 80% of the surveyed secondary schools thought that the class hours of STEM education should be increased, and almost 50% of the interviewed schools believed that more training opportunities should be provided to teachers. The results reflected that promoting STEM education is still a challenging task.
To clear the bottleneck, the education sector often takes other regions’ implementation experience as a reference. In recent years, Guangdong Province has made great efforts to promote and develop STEM education under its advocation in the ‘Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area’ and suggested strengthening the STEM education collaborations in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in three ways: interdisciplinary, project-oriented and contextual learning. How can Hong Kong draw on the teaching experience and technological innovation resources of the GBA to open up new horizons for the school community?
Creating a Scientific and Technological Atmosphere on Campus
In recent years, some Hong Kong teachers and principals have chosen to pursue their education career in mainland China. Mr Cheng King Leung (‘King Sir’ as his nickname), who had taught at Pui Ching Middle School for more than 30 years, accepted his new role as Chief Principal of Affiliated School of JNU for Hong Kong & Macao Students (ASJNU) in September 2021. STEM education is one of the focal curriculum at ASJNU where regular science and technology courses are offered for primary to junior secondary students, covering topics like computer application, programming, and 3D printing. Students weekly attend five inquiry-based classes which are co-designed by teachers from various subjects. Students can therefore study through an interdisciplinary approach based on six major themes formed annually.
King Sir aspires to build an ambience that welcomes scientific and technological ideas on campus. In early April this year, ASJNU held the ASJNU STEAM Festival 2022. Apart from the Robot Programming Competition, students showcased their final products created with LEGO mechanics. King Sir hopes to popularise STEM education in his school instead of reserving it exclusively for elite students. For example, the Paper Airplane Competition is a vivid embodiment of teachers’ detailed thoughts of creating an approachable STEM lesson. ‘Folding a paper airplane is something we all can do. Our goal is to see how many students are willing to explore and think more in tasks as simple as that. If one gives a thought to minor tasks like that, details of knowledge and skills may emerge,’ King Sir said. He even plans to set an example to his students by sharing a set of fitness training equipment designed by himself in ‘Principal Classroom’ for students to learn about creative inventions.
National Policies Drive Business-education Collaborations
Currently, STEM is not an independent subject in Hong Kong. The STEM curriculum is developed in a school-based approach, similar to the approach in the GBA. King Sir thinks that the development of STEM education in Hong Kong and in other cities in the GBA differs in a way that the latter are adopting a top-down approach. This approach drives development in education with policies and encourages collaborations between the business and education sectors. In the process, enterprises also bring in resources for further business-education cooperation in the GBA.
Innovation and technology start-ups are happy to cooperate with schools in developing STEM education. Like ASJNU, the partnered technology company provides the students with robots and later 3D drawing software, facilitating them in learning 3D drawing and 3D printing technology. King Sir said the abundance of science and technology innovation enterprises in the GBA has built favourable conditions in promoting relevant education. These enterprises are willing to cooperate with the school sector to nurture future talents who are proficient in locally-developed software.
Looking Forward: Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Jointly Build a STEM Platform
King Sir pointed out that Hong Kong teachers have certain advantages in engaging in STEM education in the GBA. ‘Hong Kong with its international connection invites the influx of technology from abroad. The global vision, execution ability and creativity of Hong Kong teachers should be consolidated to bring the global technology into the GBA. On the other hand, the technological knowledge and local culture of the GBA are mostly tied to enterprises in the area. If the GBA becomes a platform on which Chinese and Western cultures converge and flourish, young people in the GBA should attain a more extensive technological vision,’ he said.
At present, STEM education in Hong Kong and that in the GBA have its own development, thriving with different colours. Cooperation may become one of the future development directions and instil vitality to the STEM education of each other. Meanwhile, commencing exchanges based on STEM education will not only facilitate students’ interaction at a technical level, but also enhance the learning of practical experience from each other. King Sir said with optimism, ‘the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao can explore future collaborations, and create a new platform for hosting STEM competitions to encourage students showcasing their skills, abilities and creativity.’ He also hoped that the education sector in the GBA can organise cross-border collaboration platforms to gain more support from innovation and technology enterprises along the way of developing STEM education.