Full STEAM ahead for STEM education in Hong Kong and Singapore schools
It’s true that a good education aims to teach students about thinking analytically and recognising fads and trends. A little ironically, schools themselves often get caught up in the waves of enthusiasm surrounding a movement. This is definitely the case with the STEM education movement in Hong Kong and Singapore schools.
For parents moving to Hong Kong or moving to Singapore and looking for a good education for their children, a STEM programme can seem attractive. Before enrolling in anything, though, it’s a good idea to look at what’s actually on offer and how it might fit in with an education pathway that suits your child.
First, some definitions.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It’s a term that’s been in long use in US schools to describe the teaching of these disciplines – or lack thereof. It came into being because of a recognised need for more focus on these areas.
In some cases STEM became STEAM, with an “A” added for the Arts. Many technology teachers (particularly in the UK and Australia) considered their subjects to be creative design and felt that STEM overemphasised logic. With many schools wanting to encourage creative thinking, STEAM became the acronym of choice for some.
Over the last few years, STEM or STEAM (we’ll refer to it as STEM for simplicity’s sake) has been adopted by many schools worldwide. There’s been a global discussion around the need to upskill students in these disciplines, and it’s been enabled by the availability of digital and computing technology.
Hong Kong is one of those embracing STEM education, and sometimes uses it as a selling point. Some international schools, for example, emphasize their focus in messaging to parents – many webpages feature STEM images and stories on their homepages. Several local schools have been doing something similar for years, although it’s generally been focused on a small group who represented the school at an event, rather than a programme targeted at every child – which is the approach international schools are taking.
Singapore has also embraced STEM, not just in international schools but local schools. As so many local schools teach in English, they can be quite accessible to expats.
As you can imagine, when schools amalgamate up to five disciplines under one title, how any one school’s programme works can vary greatly.
Add to this the “maker movement,” another initiative from the US. It focuses on what can be learned from physically making something. This has been strong in the school sector, sometimes with designated “Maker Spaces” being set aside for students to tinker with tools or solder together their own pieces of technology. Typically, these creations are designed to solve real world issues – for example, children might design a flash and vibration enabled walking stick to assist someone with impaired vision.
There is a lot to be gained from STEM, but it does depend on how the programme is run and what your child needs. If you’re considering STEM schools, take a careful look at the programme first. You can ask yourself the following questions:
While there are a range of schools and you may like to run your own searches, a good starting point is the Hong Kong Education Bureau lists of the schools by district and also this list is on the Singapore’s Ministry of Education website. And don’t forget the all-important resource of other parents. They might have their own experiences when it comes to STEM education in Hong Kong and Singapore schools.
Got any questions? Get in touch with the source of this article, Paul McMahon from Digital Solutions for Dynamic Schools (Hong Kong) or visit www.learningsasia.com
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Image source : Paul McMahon