Generation 40s – 四十世代

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STEM是新意還是添亂?

信報財經新聞
時事評論
2016-04-30

許為天

近日,負責科學教育的朋友常收到小學校長和老師的查詢,都是請教如何運用教育局為推廣STEM【註】教育而發放的10萬元津貼,這筆津貼是可以購置STEM教育需要的物資,或者舉辦相關的教學活動。

筆者聽回來的消息是,很多學校均打算用以購置3D打印機或機械人組件方面;於是乎,政府的數千萬元撥款也便大部分進了這些科技設備公司的賬戶了。在即時增添科技設備公司的收入之餘,課堂的教學與學生的得益又有幾多呢?

回到小學的課室環境,電腦及投映、空氣調節,此等合理的基本設施還不是標準的配置,甚至連電腦室的冷氣機也不是標準設施。如此看來,這一筆過的每校10萬元津貼確是捨本逐末,是否會是財政年度終結前教育部門的結賬行為呢?

回到STEM教育,筆者對這個名詞並不陌生,因為在美國的學校教育政策中已提出近10年。在2006年小布殊主政時,他提出「美國競爭力計劃」(American Competitiveness Initiative),針對當時美國政府對STEM教育較薄弱的投資,顯著增加撥款以提升中小學數理精英的質量、增強STEM教師教學技巧,以及擴闊進入大學修讀STEM科系的渠道,此等教育方向自奧巴馬主政後,仍然維持至今。

然而,近10年的STEM教育推廣,美國的基礎教育在國際比較中不進反退:PISA的國際排名由2009年(65國家地區參與)數學第24名與科學第19名後,退至2012(64國家地區參與)數學第35名與科學第27名。可以說,美國政府的主觀願望並未能如願以償。

在相應的2006年的香港教育局面,則是大力闊斧的新高中課程更動:必修通識教育科引致傳統理科組合(即一併修讀物理、化學及生物三科)崩潰;合併數學6個課程,並淺化成為今天文憑試的數學科。

由於PISA是評核15歲學生組群,故此這高中課程的改動也無損香港在PISA 2012的排名。不過,此等更動正是與原本美國STEM教育的目標背道而馳:沒有一大群在高中熟悉科學的畢業生,又何來供應精英去在大學修讀STEM科系?對當年高中課改而言,正是回應「世界變了,教育制度非變不可」的口號,扭轉重理輕文的高中教育;在大學教育,科技也不是香港的強項,無關重要,畢竟香港的經濟發展不在STEM是眾所皆知。

奇怪的是,去年11月,香港課程發展議會竟以「推動STEM教育—發揮創意潛能」為題,提出STEM教育的建議和策略,以及相關的課程更新來諮詢學校;及至本年3月,教育局便向各公營小學發放一筆過的10萬元津貼,以作STEM教育的推廣。如此對數理科教育的忽冷忽熱,也令人難以參透玄機,在此按下不表,談談實際課程和教學。

小學方面,現時的課程已是超負荷:兩文三語、專題研習、常識體藝;再加上港式教育的特色:以測考為目標的教學、要子女「贏在起跑線」的家長等等,學校教育內容愈豐富,則學生、教師和家長的負擔愈沉重。

現實而言,小學教育不是要加,而是要去蕪存菁。買了3D打印機和機械人組件,便要勞煩老師去花心思,由管理設施到創意教學,到頭來可能只是幾個精英學生得益,倒不如是全體學生養蠶、到戶外看彩虹、用放大鏡點燃火柴等等原始科學探究實際得多。

還有的是,身為國際公民,香港學校的環保教育實踐(如垃圾分類等),真的是落後得很。還有還有,小學生的午餐教育實踐,包括衞生健康等基礎的科學教育,這又何須STEM來作教育平台呢?

中學方面,筆者大膽提出建議,可以讓部分中學毋須以通識教育科為必修,恢復理科生全修物理、化學和生物的傳統,然後再針對理科課程,拔尖補底。那麼,至少有希望可以把現時高中理科學習的質量回復到新高中改革前的水平。

許為天
浸會大學教育學系首席講師

註:STEM是Science(科學)、Technology(科技)、 Engineering(工程)、Mathematics(數學)各英文首字母縮寫。

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Why sorry is still the hardest word to say for Japan, 70 years after the second world war

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-08-14

Stephen Nagy

Stephen Nagy considers Japan’s need to cater to post-war domestic politics and its strategic positioning

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces the conundrum of recognising Japan’s past while explaining its future in East Asia. This includes coming to terms with Japan’s imperial past. Abe’s nationalist and conservative credentials make him the ideal candidate to deliver both messages, which would strengthen Japan’s regional reputation.

Besides, finally dealing with the historical demons of its past would also benefit Japan. This leads us to ask why he hesitates to engage in an act that would be positive for Japan and the region.

Abe does not have a monopoly in terms of not fully accounting for Japan’s imperial past. To date, no sitting Japanese prime minister has visited prominent second world war memorials dedicated to the Nanking Massacre, comfort women or other war-related issues. It is unlikely that Abe will take up President Xi Jinping’s offer to join the 70th anniversary commemoration events on September 3 in Beijing, either.

This selective historical amnesia is rooted in post-war political factions that were never comfortable with the narrative that Japan was an aggressor state and that its military behaviour, particularly in East Asia, was any different than other nations at war.

Conservative politicians like Abe receive considerable support from the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association, an influential group that supports prime ministers and politicians visiting controversial sites of commemoration, such as the Yasukuni Shrine that honours senior military and political figures convicted of the most serious war crimes. Acknowledging wartime atrocities and accepting that the war conducted by imperial Japan was a war of aggression responsible for the death of tens of millions would be political suicide.

In short, domestic politics is tied to electing people who can mobilise conservative voters. As the “Prince of the Nationalists”, as some commentators label him, Abe acts as a torch bearer for these views. Thus, as prime minister, Abe has wedded himself to political support groups that make it nearly impossible for him to acknowledge that past.

Furthermore, his track record delegitimises any attempt to convey remorse. Instead of appearing sincere, Abe’s words and actions are seen as ideologically driven.

Abe’s reticence in this respect complicates relations between Korea, China and Japan. That said, history – real, invented or constructed – is not the only factor deterring reconciliation in the region. Geopolitics and domestic politics within neighbouring countries also hamper relations.

For example, a divided Korean Peninsula, with the North and South using nationalistic rhetoric to consolidate their leadership and domestic politics, makes it unlikely that even a more progressive, shared view of history will improve relations between Japan and Korea. American military bases serve as a constant reminder that Koreans need to be vigilant defenders of their sovereignty. Perceived weakness on South Korea’s part with regard to a softer and more conciliatory approach to Japan strengthens the North’s nationalist credentials and thus its national security.

Reunification of the Korean Peninsula under Seoul’s leadership would not necessarily be conducive to reconciliation, either. A unified, pro-US Korea would mean the loss of a buffer state against US influence for China. It is hard to imagine Beijing willing to tolerate anything but the status quo.

In this sense, there may be tacit recognition on Abe’s part that soured relations in northeast Asia are a result of geopolitical competition and insecurities. In that line of thinking, Abe’s speech to the US Congress may have omitted apologies and expressions of remorse to East Asia not just because it was the wrong venue, but also out of the understanding that history is being used as a strategic tool to weaken Japan, to maintain current divisions that act as a buffer against US influence.

This wariness is directed not only at American influence, either; a vibrant democratic, unified Korean Peninsula, especially one that has been able to reconcile with Japan, would not be a welcome neighbour.

The instrumentalisation of history, war guilt and public shaming of Japan have all significantly decreased sympathy for the Chinese arguments. According to the 2014 Genron poll of Japan-China relations, many Japanese feel that anti-Japanese education and selective historical teachings about Japan and the war have made and are making relations worse.

There is another catalyst that makes Japanese politicians and people in general much less sympathetic to China’s interpretation of history, and less willing to apologise for past wrongdoings during the imperial period. As China continues to have double-digit military growth and engages in assertive behaviour in both the East and South China seas, such as unilaterally declaring an air defence identification zone, Japanese politicians, no matter how sincere and forthright about history, will find it increasing difficult to garner public support for further apologies to a state that is perceived as assertive, openly anti-Japanese and changing the status quo.

Stephen R. Nagy is an associate professor in the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo