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LCQ7: Promotion of STEAM education
     Following is a question by the Hon Tang Fei and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):
     The Chief Executive (CE) has, in the Policy Address just delivered, proposed to step up the promotion of STEAM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education at primary and secondary levels, so as to build a solid foundation for students in support of the general direction of promoting innovation and technology (I&T) development in Hong Kong in the future. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the Education Bureau (EDB) disburses a recurrent Life-wide Learning Grant to primary and secondary schools to support schools in taking forward, on the present foundation, life-wide learning, including further promoting STEAM education in schools, whether the Government has formulated clear indicators to regularly assess the effectiveness of the grant in promoting STEAM education;
(2) of the specific implementation situation of the "IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools" Programme and the "Knowing More About IT" Programme launched by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, including the number of applications received so far and the use of the funding granted; whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the two programmes;
(3) given that the CE has proposed to implement enriched coding education at the upper primary level and incorporate learning elements of I&T, such as artificial intelligence (AI) in the junior secondary curriculum, whether the Government will subsidise schools to recruit more teachers to meet the additional demand for teachers, or require schools to deploy existing teachers to take up the additional teaching work; and
(4) given that the "Key Points of Education Informatization and Network Security in 2019" issued by the General Office of the Ministry of Education in 2019 and the "Outline of the Action Plan for Improving Scientific Literacy for All (from 2021 to 2035)" issued by the State Council in 2021 respectively proposed to promote AI education in primary and secondary schools and enhance the scientific literacy of young people, whether the EDB, when comprehensively formulating the indicators and requirements for science education at the basic education level, has made similar planning, and whether it has plans to align such planning with the relevant policies of the country?
     The Government is committed to developing innovation and technology (I&T), with the aims of better equipping our young generation with 21st century competencies, and nurturing I&T talents in contribution to our country and Hong Kong in the future. As announced in "The Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address", the Education Bureau (EDB) will step up the promotion of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education "for all", "for fun" and "for diversity" in primary and secondary schools. We will provide various support measures, including enriching the curriculum, strengthening teacher training and offering resources support, to facilitate schools in creating an atmosphere conducive to the learning of science and I&T, nurture students' interest and capabilities in learning science and technology from an early age, and develop their potential in innovation.  Effective promotion of STEAM education requires support from various sectors in the community. On the part of schools, they should fully implement STEAM education to equip students to harness the opportunities brought about by I&T development in Hong Kong. Our reply to the Hon Tang Fei's question is as follows:
(1)  Starting from the 2019/20 school year, the EDB has provided a recurrent Life-wide Learning Grant with an annual provision of about $900 million for public sector and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools to support them in taking forward, based on the present foundation, more life-wide learning activities with enhanced efforts, including but not limited to STEAM-related learning experiences. Schools may use the grant flexibly in accordance with the guidelines issued by the EDB, including the requirement that learning activities should be in line with the learning goals, curriculum objectives and learning needs of students.
     Under the school-based management, schools enjoy flexibility in the allocation of resources. At the same time, they are held accountable for their performance and have to enhance transparency. Schools are required to prepare a plan on the use of the grant for the school year in accordance with its objectives, and incorporate the plan into the Annual School Plan. Furthermore, they have to include the report on the use of the grant consisting of the expenses on the activities and the evaluation results in the School Report of the school year concerned. Both the Annual School Plan and the School Report should be submitted to the Incorporated Management Committees/School Management Committees for endorsement and uploaded to the school websites for public information to demonstrate school accountability. If any non-compliance with the guidelines on the use of the grant is found, the EDB will contact the schools concerned and take appropriate follow-up action.
(2)  The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) has launched the "IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools" and the "Knowing More about IT" for primary schools programmes to provide funding for secondary and primary schools respectively to organise IT-related extra-curricular activities. They serve to cultivate students' interest in I&T at an early age and enhance their digital skills, with a view to laying a solid I&T foundation. The two programmes have so far received funding applications from over 390 secondary schools and 260 primary schools. About 730 applications from some 570 schools, involving a funding amount of over $240 million, have been approved.
     In July this year, the OGCIO issued questionnaires to all publicly-funded primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong for evaluating the effectiveness of the two programmes. Of the 600 or so secondary and primary schools which participated in the survey, over 95 per cent of them agreed that the programmes could help create an IT learning atmosphere at the campus, arouse students' interest in IT, and help students acquire IT knowledge and skills. In addition, about 80 per cent of the secondary and primary school students who participated agreed that the relevant extra-curricular activities could enhance their interest in IT and IT knowledge. The OGCIO will continue to prpoactively promote the programmes to schools and assist them in applying for funding, in particular those which have not yet participated.
(3)  "The Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address" proposes promoting STEAM learning for all. To this end, we will enrich coding education at the upper primary level and incorporate I&T elements such as artificial intelligence into the junior secondary curriculum to facilitate curriculum development. The relevant work is part of the regular learning and teaching instead of additional teaching work. Taking into consideration the keen demand from primary schools for teachers with expertise in STEAM-related subjects, the EDB launched a pilot scheme in August 2022 to provide flexibility for employment of teachers having expertise in STEAM-related subjects as STEAM teachers in aided primary schools. Schools can, having regard to their school-based circumstances, flexibly handle teacher employment matters, including teachers for coding/I&T education, to assist schools in implementing STEAM education. In addition, starting from the current school year, schools are required to designate co-ordinators to holistically plan STEAM education within and beyond the classroom. The EDB will continue to provide professional training programmes for STEAM co-ordinators and teachers, so as to equip them to implement STEAM education.
(4)  When planning primary and secondary STEAM education under basic education, the EDB has aligned with our country's general direction to attach importance to the promotion of I&T development and popular science. In terms of curriculum, we incorporate more I&T learning elements, including developing the "Enriched Module on Coding Education for Upper Primary Level" and "Module on Artificial Intelligence for Junior Secondary Level". Apart from implementing coding education at the upper primary level and incorporating artificial intelligence at the junior secondary level, we have launched the "Enhancing Science and Technology Learning at the Upper Primary Level" pilot scheme in this school year to strengthen students' scientific thinking and "hands-on and minds-on" ability, and to build a solid foundation of science and technology from an early age.
     We will strengthen teacher professional training to enhance the professional capacity of schools' leadership and co-ordination of STEAM education in tandem, and build a teaching force keeping abreast of the latest development of I&T. Starting from the current school year, all publicly-funded schools are required to designate co-ordinators to enhance the holistic planning of STEAM education within and beyond the classroom; schools are also required to make arrangements for teachers to undergo professional development training on I&T in an orderly manner. Our target is to have at least three-quarters of publicly-funded primary and secondary schools participating in such training by the 2023/24 school year. In this regard, the EDB will collaborate with various I&T organisations (e.g. Cyberport), tertiary institutions and professional bodies, etc. to organise training programmes with I&T elements (such as green technology, gerontechnology and application of Internet of Things) for STEAM coordinators and teachers. Besides, I&T learning elements (such as biotechnology, novel materials science and energy technology) will be included in the training of STEAM-related subjects to keep teachers abreast of the latest development of I&T as well as its applications in teaching and instructional strategies.
     Regarding resources support, apart from the aforementioned "Life-wide Learning Grant" that schools could deploy to support the implementation of STEAM-related learning activities, the EDB will arrange science and technology experts to support the implementation of STEAM education. For example, institutions of professional engineers would launch a new support programme titled "Engineers on Campus” for primary and secondary schools in this school year. The engineers will work with teachers to arrange different learning activities on specific themes such as “Engineering for Daily Life”, “Engineering for Arts and Entertainments", and "Engineering for Smarter Living". The programme is conducive to cultivating students' interest and motivation in learning STEAM and creating an atmosphere of STEAM learning at schools.
     To deepen students' understanding of I&T development in our country and enhance scientific spirit, the EDB continuously collaborates with relevant organisations to provide opportunities for students to exchange with top-notch scientists and astronauts of the country, for example, students participate in activities like "Tiangong Class", "Thematic Talk on Aerospace Science by Distinguished Mainland Aerospace Scientists", "A Dialogue between Space and Earth" and "Science and Innovation Forum". Starting from the next school year, schools are required to organise or arrange students to participate in quality STEAM activities of reasonable scale every year so as to provide more opportunities for students to participate.
     Moreover, the EDB continues to enhance the collaboration with the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education to offer systematic and enriched training programmes for gifted students of primary and secondary levels through various talent development initiatives. We will also provide a wide range of advanced training courses on I&T (such as Big Data and quantum computing) through the Off-school Advanced Learning Programmes funded by the Gifted Education Fund to nurture talents with potential in STEAM areas.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:28
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