STEM Education has exploded in Hong Kong in past years. How is STEM being taught in Hong Kong schools? We provide all the information you need to know about the development of STEM education in Hong Kong.
STEM is a subject that combines Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics into a singular discipline.
Both STEM and STEM education have become popular nowadays to reflect society’s growing need for such talents. In fact, STEM is so in-demand that employers are willing to pay 26% more in starter salaries!
With its heavy focus on real-life application, STEM education encourages children to become curious learners at a young age. Unlike traditional spoon-feeding, STEM education encourages children to solve problems and think creatively through hands-on experiments and simulations.
Hong Kong has also recognised the importance for STEM education. In 2016, the Education Bureau (EDB) incorporated STEM into the 8 Key Learning Areas (KLA) of primary and secondary school curriculum.
STEM is taught in primary schools under the broad subject of Maths and General Studies, while it is broken down further in Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) and Tech (Design and Technology, Information Technology etc.) in secondary school.
Aside from incorporating KLAs, the EDB also provided one-time grants to schools to improve and widen their STEM resources. There are also plans for larger additional grants to be made to establish “IT Innovation Labs” in secondary schools to promote technological learning.
The EDB does not have a standard curriculum for STEM education. Many schools teach STEM differently — some schools have a dedicated STEM class, while others offer STEM lessons as optional extra-curricular activities.
Malvern College Hong Kong practises Nuffield Science, an approach that promotes science learning through experiments and discovery. The school teaches STEM around its practical applications in the world to inspire critical thinking and problem solving. Malvern College Hong Kong also collaborates with organisations to deliver STEM camps and workshops for curious students who want to learn things that are outside the curriculum.
American School Hong Kong has a curriculum that prepares their students to succeed in the future. Their NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) aligned STEM lessons encourage students to actively engage in learning and become self-motivated learners. Moreover, their level-adjusted STEM lessons also train students to think logically with the scientific method.
Pak Kau College greatly promotes STEM within its curriculum. The school offers “Innovation Technology Education”, which exposes and trains students in STEM through hands-on research and experiments. The school’s rich IT programme enhances students’ interest in STEM at a young age and prepares them with the technological knowledge for the future.
STEM is focused on applying knowledge learnt in the classroom into real-life scenarios. In fact, STEM education encourages students to learn by doing — this trial and error approach helps them to gain a better understanding of concepts while fostering them to learn from their mistakes.
Educators also use the Engineering Design Process (EDP) to motivate students to solve problems creatively. The 7-step process drives students to ask a question, perform research on the topic, imagine, plan, create and test their solution, and finally improve.
Hands-on learning encourages students to be resilient and curious learners and trains their ability to solve problems independently. This is why activity and project-based learning is especially popular in STEM education.
STEM learning activities can take many shapes and forms, but their objective is always to help students reinforce important life skills and spark interest in STEM.
The best STEM activities are beyond textbooks or screens and involve things they can use their hands for — including building models and performing experiments and more. Students can concentrate and directly interact with what they’re learning in the classroom!
It’s never too early for kids to do STEM activities. What is important is that the activities are age-appropriate and level-adjusted.
STEM activities at this level should make kids become curious about the world around them. The goal is to show children that STEM is something they can do with their own hands. Such activities could be making a “cloud in a jar” or “rainbow in a jar”.
STEM Education at a primary school level should still be introductory — not too difficult but enough to make students interested. The goal of this stage should be to encourage students’ to think scientifically and apply what they learn in their daily lives. Examples could be making a light-up postcard or building a hand crank winch.
Students at this stage deal with more abstract concepts while applying their knowledge on a greater level. The goal of this stage should be solidifying students’ learning and interest in STEM. Such activities could include designing an anti-burglary contraption or creating smart water filters.
Unlike most traditional schooling, the goal of STEM is to equip students with skills to succeed in the real world. STEM learning projects immerses students in practical scenarios and challenges them to study real-life issues. This not only trains them to think critically of real-world problems, but also encourages them to become civil minded members of society.
With this approach, students get to learn and apply new knowledge into developing a project. Using the EDP, they perform research on a given topic or problem and create unique solutions while coming up with new conclusions. Students take full control over their projects, which encourages them to become motivated learners. Examples of project-based learning could be programming automated models or designing an app.
Similar to project-based learning, students must analyse and evaluate a problem given to them. What’s important here is that the problem is open-ended and leaves room for students to think of innovative solutions. Teachers facilitate teamwork and communication amongst students, while students can work on their communication and leadership skills. Examples of problem-based learning could be cleaning up an oil spill or installing solar panels in buildings.
With this approach, students are encouraged to ask as many questions they can around a subject. Students perform detailed research to come up with new conclusions and train them to think critically. This approach highlights the role students have in their own learning and encourages them to become self-motivated learners.
Under the “school-oriented” policy, schools have flexibility to incorporate STEM into different learning elements into their curriculum. The EDB also provides funding for schools to “upgrade” their STEM teaching resources.
However, the development of STEM education in Hong Kong is still lagging behind globally. This can be seen in the low enrolment rate of science and advanced maths subjects in secondary school, which also reflects students' lack of interest in pursuing STEM in higher education.
Since STEM is not an independent subject, it has to be “squeezed in” during other classes (such as mathematics, general studies etc.). This means teachers have to sacrifice time to teach STEM, making it inconvenient for both students and teachers. STEM extracurricular activities do not fully address this problem, since it only attracts students who are already interested in the subject.
Many teachers don’t feel confident about teaching STEM since it is outside of their expertise. According to a recent study, up to 83% of teachers believe there is a lack of STEM training and support for teachers. Students may not realise the full extent of STEM education this way.
Similarly, unclear teaching guidelines make it difficult for teachers to teach STEM in school. Since the EDB does not have a standard STEM curriculum, many schools are confused in their approach while teaching STEM. For example, some schools may flock to buy expensive STEM kits that do not enhance their students' STEM learning at all.
Few students study STEM subjects in secondary school because they feel burdened with “core subjects”. To this regard, some universities have special schemes to enrol students with good STEM results even if they do not meet the basic university admission requirements on other subjects. The EDB should make STEM an independent subject to increase students’ exposure and interest to the field.
In 2021, the Hong Kong Government has allocated $40 million to provide undergraduates and postgraduates in STEM programmes with allowances to enrol in short-term internships. This aims to encourage more and provide a smooth transition for university graduates to pursue a career in STEM. This is especially important in Hong Kong, where a service and finance-dominated economy deters people from pursuing STEM careers.
The EDB hosts a range of interesting STEM activities and topics for educators and students to explore. Each activity clearly states its learning objective and required materials, making it easy for teachers to use in class.
The Bureau breaks down the content of activity into 4 key stages. These key stages indicate the intensity of the activity, and usually matches with students’ age.
Example Activity: Design and construct a model of a building
Using cube-shaped blocks, students are tasked to create buildings and estimate the number of blocks used in other students’ buildings. The objective of this activity is to consolidate students’ counting and observation skills, while also letting them be creative and communicate with peers
Example Activity: Wind Car
Students assemble wooden cars with sails. Using air blowers, students are then asked to compare the speed of cars with sails that are in different shapes/different materials. The objective of this activity is for students to recognise the relationship between speed, energy and materials, while also giving them a chance to hypothesise and experiment.
Example Activity: Games of Computer Images and Data Encoding
Students encode simple images and messages into binary and decode each others’ code. Students can also pick from different encoding methods and compare the ones they prefer. The objective of this activity is for students to apply concepts in maths (binary numbers) in real-life scenarios.
Example Activity: Modelling the spread of a disease
Using probability models, students calculate and predict the rate in which a disease infects a population. Students can then alter the rate of infection to test whether their disease will be eradicated or not. The objective of this activity is to further apply STEM knowledge in advanced real-life scenarios.
Big Bang Academy is looking to change that. As a STEM Education startup, we look to make STEM accessible in schools by providing teaching materials — teachers can use our expert-designed curriculum to teach STEM to students even as young as kindergarteners.
Our curriculum revolves around hands-on experiments and it is the only of its kind to be STEM.org accredited in Hong Kong. Aside from teaching, every one of our lessons include hands-on projects. Children can directly learn and interact with STEM concepts through experiments.
With in-house teachers trained in STEM, we also work with schools to provide quality STEM lessons as ECAs.
As great as STEM education is to prepare children for the future, the truth is that not every school offers such an experience, even less of them do it well. How can children be on par with their peers in the future if they’re not learning STEM in schools right now?
The age of the internet has blessed us with virtually unlimited access to a myriad of resources online. Self-learning for children has never been easier.
However, it’s a hassle just to filter through the sheer amount of websites that are too complex, too easy or just badly designed. You might also have to spend a lot of time fact-checking buggy powerpoints before you let your kid learn from them.
It could be an intimidating task for parents , but it doesn’t have to be. Simply make sure that:
Big Bang STEAM makes STEM learning easy for parents and exciting for kids. Combining Cambridge educator-directed video lessons with interactive hands-on experiments, it has everything your kids will need to fall in love with STEM!
Equip your child with knowledge to succeed with Big Bang STEAM’s comprehensive hands-on curriculum! Check it out now!
Big Bang Academy
Big Bang Academy is an accredited science EdTech startup.Founded in early 2020, we started with a workshop of 15 students and a dream. Ever since, we have grown to serve 3,000+ students in both a lesson setting and our very own online education platform, Big Bang Lab.