Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)
In today’s fast-evolving world increasingly dominated by algorithms, artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, every economy needs a workforce trained in innovation, science and technology. This is why many countries have reformed their education system to feature STEAM education.
Recognising the importance of STEAM and following a consultation with key stakeholders, Hong Kong government released a report in 2016 on the promotion of STEAM education, which sets out recommendations for primary and secondary schools. Furthermore, the Education Bureau provides funding and other kinds of support to schools to promote STEAM programmes. For example, it launched a STEAM Education Centre last year as part of its Arts and Technology Education Centre, to strengthen support for technology education in schools. Despite these efforts, Hong Kong is still being criticized for lagging behind in this aspect. There are a number of reasons for this. Foremost is Hong Kong’s failure to give priority to STEAM subjects in its school syllabus. Among the four subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), only math is mandatory throughout the six years of secondary school education, but engineering and technology-related subjects are not. Furthermore, even after the introduction of the new senior secondary curriculum in 2009, science subjects remain electives for senior secondary students.
According to a study by the Legislative Council, the percentage of senior secondary students taking science-related subjects has dropped since 2009, and this should offer an insight into why it is critical to let children learn STEAM subjects as early as possible so that they will not lose interest later in their lives.
In fact, if the world is to be governed by AI, technology, computers and robotics in the future, we must give our youth the knowledge and language required to command and manage these gadgets. It is logical to start teaching our young children the basics of coding, the language of programming, in primary school. After all, many of our toddlers today are well acquainted with smartphones or tablets. They are the new generation of this digital age.
In Hong Kong, we are failing to nurture an interest in STEAM in our young children. Without that, the young won’t be motivated to learn math, science or technology. We must understand that young children cannot be forced to learn by simply dangling a high-paying job in the future. We must encourage students to create and to innovate based on their scientific knowledge, logical reasoning and creativity in a constant process of trial and error. This is the Achilles’ heel of Hong Kong education, in which model answers, exam skills and strategies dominate the system. Students are trained to follow one way which would earn them flying colours in public exams. They are discouraged to come up with their own way to succeed and failure is taught to be avoided instead of something that can be embraced. Even now Singapore are less exam-oriented, we should take this opportunity to promote STEAM education to genuinely improve our education system that allows future generations to thrive with their interests and creativity.
- St Francis Canossian School
- Sir Ellis Kadoorie Primary School