German Education’s Success in Promoting STEM

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and its promotion in primary and secondary schools is aimed at attracting young people to actively engage in innovative research and development. In order to successfully promote STEM in Hong Kong, it is not enough to start with education alone. This time, we have drawn reference from the success of Germany in promoting STEM culture to find out what complementary measures are needed in Hong Kong in terms of education, society and industry.

In Germany, STEM is also known as MINT [Mathematik, Informatik, Naturwissenschaft und Technik]. According to the OECD 2017, 40% of first-year university students in Germany who study subjects categorized as tertiary or service industries choose a STEM field. This is significantly higher than the OECD average of 27%, 31% in Korea, 29% in the UK and 21% in Japan.

A country’s economic development, employment opportunities and education have always been mutually reinforcing. In addition to its well-developed industrial and manufacturing sectors, Germany is a hub of innovation, with German companies from a wide range of sectors operating at the forefront of technology, resulting in a growing demand for innovative technologies and techniques. In recent years, the country has been vigorously promoting Industry 4.0 and the development of green energy in order to remain competitive in the international market, which has led to a surge in job opportunities. This has had a positive impact on the education sector, creating demand for specific vocational programs, particularly STEM education. Of the thousands of degree programmes offered by German universities in the fields of natural sciences and mathematics, hundreds are taught in English, making them a great opportunity for international students.

Thousands of STEM-related job opportunities are currently available in Germany, but many remain vacant due to a lack of qualified applicants – a problem that the country is currently grappling with. Not only are research institutions looking for qualified new employees, but the business community is also finding it increasingly difficult to obtain graduates with STEM degrees. Companies in Germany are struggling to find skilled workers and are spending resources to train new staff to make up for the shortage of STEM professionals. Qualified STEM professionals are in demand not only in Germany, but all over the world.

In retrospect, Hong Kong has always been an international financial centre with a strong focus on service industries, and the manufacturing sector has been on the decline since the 1980s. It is believed that this is due to the changing social climate and values in Hong Kong. It is an indisputable fact that the government has long emphasized real estate and finance and neglected innovation and development. There is no incentive or avenue for young people to pursue careers in scientific research with uncertain prospects. Hong Kong’s industries do not have the employment support to encourage students to join STEM, and Hong Kong needs an industrial reform in order to make Hong Kong students switch from BAFS to STEM.

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Alby W. S. Wong

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