Jobs and research funds: how Hong Kong’s education system can help science to take root
The United States is known to be a leader in STEM education. In November 2009, then US president Barack Obama launched his “Educate to Innovate” campaign for excellence in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education.
Following suit, the Curriculum Development Council of Hong Kong in 2015 issued a document named “Promotion of STEM Education – Unleashing Potential in Innovation”.
However, the guiding principles for promoting STEM education (such as learner-centred approaches and essential learning experience) are only basic targets for high quality education. Every professional teacher works hard to achieve those goals. What we need is not a new scheme, but modifications and more resources for better science education. Before we promote STEM education, we have to improve our current education system.
In terms of scientific research, secondary school students can always come up with creative ideas. What hinders their development is the lack of accessible advanced instruments for their research.
We think the government should set up a research centre with some common instruments, such as analytical chemistry equipment, which secondary students can borrow for their research. In this way, these students will be able to better understand the working principle of the instruments and produce high-quality projects.
It has been found that many high achievers choose medicine, law or business over science and engineering in university. One reason for this may be that they think these subjects can lead to higher paying jobs.
If we want to attract more students to science and engineering, we should (a) put more resources into research and development and (b) create more jobs in these fields.
Promoting science education cannot be achieved by the education sector alone, but we should never shirk our responsibility for whatever reason.
When the whole world is deeply interested in STEM education, the University of Hong Kong surprisingly plans to do away with two undergraduate majors – in astronomy and maths/physics – from the 2018/19 academic year.
The HKU faculty may be right in arguing that this is good for the better allocation of resources, but this is not in line with public expectations.
Dr Raymond Tam, principal, G. T. (Ellen Yeung) College