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STEM should be core to education system: expert

Update: September, 14/2017 - 11:46
Đỗ Hoàng Sơn

The subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) have traditionally been taught as separate subjects, isolated from real-world applications. Việt Nam is now trying to change that. Đỗ Hoàng Sơn, a member of the Organising Board for STEM 2017 talks to the newspaper Kinh tế & Đô thị (Economics and Urban Affairs) about leaders’ important role in expanding and improving STEM education in all schools nation-wide.

Why do you say Hà Nội is the nation’s “heart” of STEM education?

The concept of STEM education is still new in our country.

STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.

In the last few years, Hà Nội has taken the lead in STEM education nation-wide. In all major national STEM competitions for secondary schools in the last few years, Hà Nội ranked first, winning the highest marks. The city has created new criteria in STEM education and then shared their experiences with other localities. For example, three years ago, we shared our experiences gained from the Science Club of the 6th and 7th graders at the Hà Nội Amsterdam Gifted Student School with 96 primary and secondary schools in Thái Thụy District of Thái Bình Province in the Red River Delta. And more recently, lecturers from Hà Nội National University, University of Electricity and teachers from the Trương Vương Secondary School have run many training courses on STEM for almost 400 teachers in Thanh Chương District, Nghệ An Province.

You have been involved in STEM education for many years. In your opinion, how is the interdisciplinary, applied approach being utilised in Hà Nội?

I should say after four years, many STEM clubs have been set up in many secondary schools in Hà Nội. In my own observation, both the students and the teachers have expressed their inspiration to join the STEM clubs. They have learned quite a lot of new knowledge and gained real-life problem-solving skills.

Based on lessons learned in the pilot schools, don’t you think that the STEM approach should be applied in all schools in Hà Nội?

If we introduce STEM to all schools in Hà Nôi, it will be a big challenge for the city’s education and training sector. But I’m confident that it is time for Hà Nội to introduce STEM to all schools in the city. To my knowledge, at present, some precincts and districts have started to introduce STEM in schools in their localities. These include Ba Đình and Hoàn Kiếm, Bắc Từ Liêm district and others. Of course, the level of application varies from one school to another. Fourteen schools organised STEM training courses for their teachers before the 2017-2018 new school year start. However, in my own opinion, a very important element to ensure the success of STEM is the active involvement of the school head masters. That’s why we should organise special trainings for them to help them thoroughly understand STEM and its requirements.

Do you have any recommendations for the Hà Nội authorities before they apply STEM on a large scale?

In my opinion, the city should adopt a coherent strategy on STEM education. For example, the city authorities can issue a resolution on applying STEM in all schools with very specific objects, similar to the issuance of the Directive 16 by PM Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on the 4.0 Revolution [the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, based on new and rapidly developing digital technologies].

Hà Nội has some 100,000 school teachers and they should all attend special courses on STEM before their schools begin implementing it. In my opinion, Hà Nội should learn from the experiences of Thanh Chương District, Nghệ An Province where all 88 schools ranging from primary to junior and high schools have applied STEM. — VNS

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