Hong Kong wants to teach kids more STEM – once it's defined what that is

Stop us if you've heard this one before: Territory wants to snip subjects to squeeze in coding, but knows its teachers aren't up to the job

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Hong Kong has proposed a new school curriculum packed with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) content – even though it lacks a working definition of STEM and its staff lack the skills to teach it.

A new report [PDF] from a task force given the job of reviewing the territory’s school curriculum makes a recommendation to “Strengthen STEM education in primary and secondary schools so as to develop students’ capacity to apply knowledge and skills acquired in different STEM-related subjects in an integrated and creative manner to solve daily problems.”

But the report also suggests a first step is to “state clearly the definition of STEM education as well as its aims and learning objectives for the primary and secondary levels for schools’ reference”.

It also calls for STEM to be smeared across the curriculum rather than taught as a discrete subject.

“STEM education is not to be implemented via co-curricular activities or as a separate subject but through co-ordination among related subjects, and planning for articulation in curricula and activities across the primary and secondary levels to cultivate a school climate conducive to students’ development of interest in and acquisition of the essential learning elements of STEM education,” the report says.

The document also suggests teaching coding, but suggest doing so will require “trimming the curriculum content of subjects where appropriate at the primary level”. Again, it’s not suggested what needs to go to fit in coding. The review also calls for more “whole-person development” content in the curriculum, again at the expense of something else. But doesn’t say what could usefully be removed.

Also in the review: an admission that teachers will need more training to teach STEM and understand how to weave it into the curriculum. It also explains that links to tertiary education are a good idea to ensure that STEM-infused kids learn skills that will be helpful later in their educations.

The document may be depressingly familiar to some readers, as many nations have come to the same conclusion that teaching coding and smearing tech across the school curriculum is just what’s needed to create the white-hot services-based economies of the future. And the same nations still mostly complain of skills shortages too.

The review commenced in 2017 and its document is now off for review by the territory's government. Rapid change seems unlikely. ®

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