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Majority of Hong Kong teachers not confident teaching STEM subjects, industry study reveals

Some 83 per cent of respondents to survey said they did not have enough support to teach science, technology, engineering and maths topics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 9:55pm

Only 36 per cent of the city’s teachers are confident about teaching science, technology, engineering and maths – STEM subjects – while more than 80 per cent feel facilities are insufficient to do so, according to a survey released on Thursday by the Federation of Education Workers.

To tackle these issues, it called for the injection of HK$500 million into primary and secondary schools each year and to give teachers at least half a year of paid leave for further education.

The union polled 426 schools, where a teacher in charge of STEM filled in the responses.

STEM education develops children’s skill sets to make them ‘future-proof’ in employment market

A total of 83 per cent of the respondents said they did not have enough STEM training and support, 82 per cent felt there was inadequate infrastructure for teaching the field, and 71 per cent lamented the lack of support for teaching materials.

Union committee member Ng Wun-kit said it was worrying that only 36 per cent were confident about teaching STEM.

A positive takeaway is teachers are willing to devote time for STEM education
Ng Wun-kit, Federation of Education Workers

“But a positive takeaway is teachers are willing to devote time for STEM education with some even going for training after work,” he said.

An overwhelming 99 per cent of teachers said they would learn more related knowledge while 90 per cent were willing to spend more time teaching STEM topics.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor highlighted providing STEM opportunities for pupils as a key focus after taking office in July. But in her maiden policy address in October, there were no concrete and specific proposals made for STEM at primary and secondary level with hefty packages only given to research and development at the university level.

“The government seemed to want to focus on research and development at university level [for the latest policy address], but I feel that they are all connected,” union chairman Wong Kam-leung said.

He said that if work was not done to improve STEM education at primary and secondary levels, it would affect the university sector.

As such, the group called for the government to allocate HK$500,000 of subsidies to each primary or secondary school each year. It explained that HK$100,000 is intended for hardware, HK$350,000 for support staff, and HK$50,000 for teaching materials.

With around 1,000 public primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, that would amount to about HK$500 million.

The union also proposed giving teachers at least half a year of paid leave for further education and flexibility in university entrance requirements for those who do not fare so well in core subjects, but are good in STEM.

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Lam said in her election manifesto that she would increase recurrent education expenditure by HK$5 billion. So far, only HK$3.6 billion have been handed out, with the government still discussing with the sector how to spend the remainder.

At 0.7 per cent of the city’s GDP, the research expenditure in Hong Kong is significantly lower than the 3 per cent average in many developed countries.

Lam said in her policy address that the city would double its research and development expenditure to 1.5 per cent in the next five years.