Programming and STEM should be included in school curriculum - EJ Insight


Programming and STEM should be included in school curriculum


To survive in the job market of the future, writing computer programs (coding), STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) knowledge, being innovative, and the ability to collaborate will be among the key elements. Recognizing this, governments around the world are speeding up efforts to train young people in these aspects.


The Hong Kong government has also invested a lot of resources in this regard, but it tends to be "school-oriented", that is, it is planned by the schools themselves.


Last year, local media reviewed the information of more than 500 primary schools in Hong Kong. It was found that over 60 percent of the schools mentioned STEM education as having been included in the teaching of conventional subjects and computer courses in their curriculum. However, some schools might scale down their STEM activities after using up the HK$100,000 subsidy provided by the Education Bureau.


The policy is so loose. No wonder the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in evaluating how education policies and systems can help young people aged 15 to 24 prepare for the future, rated Hong Kong as 22nd out of 35 economies in the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index. The rank was far behind that of Singapore (1st), South Korea (No. 6), Taiwan (7) and Japan (12).


However, parents are aware of the issue and are trying to prepare their children for the future. Although STEM has not been included in the formal curriculum, from the Book Fair and online survey conducted in July last year, it was found that out of 600 parents with children in kindergarten or primary school, about 40 percent of them purchased STEM related books at the Book Fair, which accounted for 20-40 percent of the total books purchase.


Another 20 percent of parents bought even more, with over 50 percent of their total purchases comprising STEM related books.


After years of stagnation in computer education, the UK government finally included coding as a regular course in primary and secondary schools in 2014.


I hope Hong Kong will also catch up by including coding and STEM as subjects with equal emphasis as math and languages, setting academic requirements for primary and secondary schools, so that syllabus and textbooks can be prepared accordingly.


This can also serve as a basis for training professional teachers to help the next generation to be a future-ready talent so that they can overcome the challenges ahead with ease.



Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong