Since Singapore’s independence in 1965, it took only about 50 years to transform itself from a developing country with scarce natural resources to a thriving global economy. Singapore owes its success to many factors, research and innovation in S&T is one of the critical elements, because it is the best way to overcome the constraints of the country size and natural resources.

Before 1990, the development of indigenous R&D capabilities did not come to the Singapore governments attention. Singapore’s technological upgrading mainly relied on technology transferred from foreign multinational corporations (Wong, 2003). After the 1990s, Singapore began to change the structure of its innovation system and S&T policies to meet the needs of global competition. In 1991, Singapore launched the first five-year S&T plan (National Technology Plan), and invested $2 billion to drive the development of S&T by cultivating the research ecosystem and culture, increasing research funding, training researchers and building infrastructure (Reuben, Lim, & Wong, 2018). The latest five-year S&T plan is the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan issued in 2016, which aimed “to develop a knowledge-based innovation-driven economy and society” (National Research Foundation, 2016), and $19 billion was committed to investment in four strategic technology domains, underpinned by three crosscutting programs. This plan is also a response to Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative launched in 2014, aiming at making Singapore the world’s first Smart Nation by 2025 (Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, 2018).

To sum up, although there are different national problems to deal with in these four Asian countries, in this increasingly competitive world, they have reached a consensus that invention, development and profusion of new technologies through S&T are the fundamental source of economic progress, national security and future problems. The needs of national development in Asia are inevitably leading to changes in education.

The Impact of STEM Investment at the National Level in Asia

The investment in STEM fields is valued in Asia and brings a profound change to the demand for future labor; hence traditional education in Asia faces an unprecedented challenge. Based on investment in STEM fields, Asian countries have begun to adopt different STEM education policies and practices (see Table 33.1). However, due to historical and cultural reasons, school education in the four Asian countries has been focusing on single-discipline curricula. Although STEM practices have been explored and implemented progressively by a large number of educators, Asian countries

Table 33.1 National-Level Programs for STEM Education in Asia



Promoting STEM Education


Promoting S TEM Education


National Institute of Education Sciences


China STEM Education 2029 Innovation Action Flan


|apan Society for STEM Education (JSTEM)

STEM activities

South Korea

Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)

Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity (КОFAC)

STEM education framework

Cultivating creative talents in S&T with integrated minds



STEM Applied Learning Programmes (ALP) STEM Industrial Partnership Programmes (IPP)

are still conservative when it conies to formulating and promulgating STEM education policies at a national level. In this section, we will introduce the STEM education at the policy, programmatic and classroom levels.

STEM Education at the Policy Level

China. In China, the Hong Kong SAR Government took the lead in implementing STEM education with the objective ot nurturing diverse talents in relevant fields and enhancing Hong Kong’s international competitiveness (Education Bureau, 2016). In mainland China, integrated STEM education has just entered the vision of the national curriculum.

In the national curriculum system, STEM education as an expanded form of science education needs further improvement. In primary schools, the promulgation of the newly revised Science Curriculum Standards for Primary Schools (Ministry ot Education, P. R. of China, 2017) was viewed as a big move tor STEM education (Yao & Guo, 2017; Liu, 2017), because “technology and engineering” were added into the science courses in primary schools as a main theme for the first time (Ministry ot Education, P. R. of China, 2017a). In secondary and high schools, though STEM education has been divided into several disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, geography, information technology, etc.), STEM education was mentioned and is explored in some ot the disciplines. For example, exploring “interdisciplinary learning” was first proposed by the Ministry of Education in 2016 (Ministry ot Education, P. R. of China, 2016), and then further requests for STEM education were made in the /3th Five-Year Plan for Education Informatization (Center for Educational Information Management, Ministry of Education, 2016). It was advocated that information technology be applied to new educational modes such as interdisciplinary learning and innovative education. Moreover, in 2017 the Ordinary High School Biology Curriculum Standard proposed for the first time that students should participate in engineering tasks in biolog)’ learning (Ministry ot Education, P. R. ot China, 2017b).

Furthermore, Chinas national STEM education plan has just emerged and is still in its infancy. The National Institute ot Education Sciences (NIES), the think tank of the Ministry of Education, is the most representative institution in promoting STEM education development in China. The NIES announced the White Paper on STEM Education in China (National Institute of Educational Sciences, P. R. of China, 2017), which analyzed the background and current situation ot China’s STEM education, and put forward the China STEM Education 2029 Innovation Action Plan. This plan was officially launched in 2018, aiming at serving the national innovation-driven development strategy, establishing a STEM education ecosystem in China through integrating social resources including government departments, scientific research institutes, high-tech enterprises, communities and schools. According to this plan, China will build a number ot STEM education model schools and will cultivate innovative talents that are urgently needed for China’s development. There are mainly six objectives for this plan: promoting the design of national STEM education policy; implementing a STEM personnel training plan; building a platform tor resource integration and teacher training; constructing STEM education standards and an evaluation system; building an integrated STEM Innovation Ecosystem; and exploring the strategies of education and talent cultivation for economic development.

Japan. Although Japan has not enacted specific STEM education policies, STEM education has been valued and implemented in different ways. First, the “Integrated Studies” (IS) program was implemented by the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technolog)') and has been gradually introduced in all schools from elementary to high schools since 1998 (Ogawa, 2001,2008). The IS curriculum gave schools great flexibility to determine the lesson length, theme, materials and so on; students were encouraged to do their own unique investigations, and technology was incorporated into learning activities. Second, the MEXT launched the program of super science high school (SSH) as part of the “Science Literacy Enhancement Initiatives” in 2002. Schools prioritize science, technology and mathematics and can be awarded SSH status and aided by Japan Science and Technology Agency (MEXT, 2003). Third, computer programming will be a compulsory subject in Japanese primary schools from 2020 (MEXT, 2016). Last, STEM education was stated and discussed at many meetings of the MEXT since 2011 (MEXT, 2019), which also shows Japans determination in developing STEM education.

Japanese researchers have made many efforts to explore integrated STEM education. Most noteworthy, the JSTEM was established to promote educational practices of the STEM field, including coding education, defining the next generation of STEM education and contributing to the development of 21st-century competencies by collaborating with academic societies overseas (JSTEM, 2018a). The JSTEM has conducted many activities to achieve these objectives. However, the government may need more evidence to prove that integrated STEM learning will become a fruitful way to improve students’ knowledge, skills or abilities to survive in this complicated world and its future (Saito, Gunji, & Kumano, 2015). Japan still needs time to promulgate STEM policies at the national level.

South Korea. The first policy that emphasized STEM education in South Korea was The Second Basic Plan to Foster and Support Human Resources in S&T (2011—2015), issued by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) (Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 2011), which was formulated based on the Special Support Act for Science and Engineering for Improving National Competitiveness in 2004. The basic plans were stipulated to be initiated every five years. The second basic plan aimed at educating talents tor a creativity-based economy by promoting STEM education. The STEM education strategies mainly include promoting STEM education in primary and secondary schools, as well as providing a research-friendly environment.

In 2011, MEST launched STEM education as a main policy tor reorganizing the national curriculum and proposed a STEM education framework by working with the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity (KOFAC), which is a government-affiliated organization and belongs to the Korean Ministry of Science and 1CT. As the most representative national institution for promoting STEM education, KOFAC has managed systematic STEM education programs at the national level.

Singapore. In Singapore’s education system, STEM-related disciplines, especially science and mathematics, are highly valued. Considering the performance of Singapore in both PISA and TIMSS in recent years, Singapore is one of the top-scoring countries in the world in both mathematics and science (Idris, Daud, Meng, & Eu, 2013). However, national policies tor integrated STEM education have only recently been put on the government’s agenda.

Singapore’s Prime Minister has emphasized the importance of STEM education because the skills are crucial to Singapore for the next 50 years (Straits Times, 2015). To promote STEM education, the Ministry of Education (МОЕ) partnered with the Singapore Science Centre and established STEM Inc (Innovation and creativity, or Incorporation) in 2014. In order to ignite students’ passion tor STEM courses, raise students’ aspirations in pursuing STEM careers, and uplift students’ professional STEM career images, STEM Inc has launched two sets of programs, the STEM Applied Learning Programmes (ALP) and the STEM Industrial Partnership Programmes (IPP).

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