DFRobot CEO Thoughts about COVID-19 Impact on STEAM Development in China
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SHANGHAI, Feb. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- "The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant effects on education development in China. The Covid-19 outbreak is a crisis, but it triggers the educators in China to think about what we can learn from our current educational circumstances so as to make sufficient preparations for the future. Therefore, there has been a growing emphasis on STEAM in China, because it is an approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding students how to think critically and evaluate information, and how to apply knowledge, research and skills to solve the problem. Enhancing such skills lies at the heart of STEAM education," Ricky Ye said, Founder & CEO of DFRobot, a Chinese open source hardware and STEAM education provider.
Ricky Ye illustrates four kinds of prevalent STEAM teaching practices to show current STEAM educational environment in China.
Project-based learning is an ideal way to master STEAM skills for students. Projects help students master useful skills, keep learning fun, and allow students to direct the course of their own education.
A successful example of PBL is the bird protection for Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve, in the western Yunnan Province of China. The bird protection project is divided into three parts: the first part is for students to go to bird nature reserves to select the bird they want to observe and design an artificial nest for birds they are interested in; the second part is to learn 3D design concept and 3D printer operation and make the artificial nests after returning to school; finally, students go back to the bird nature reserve and put the artificial nest into the nature. During this project, students experience the process of finding problem, collecting data, analyzing information, discussing ideas and finally coming up with the solutions. This example is a good combination of PBL with STEAM. Students become the scientists, mathematicians, engineers, artists and technological engineers during the project.
Although PBL has gradually become an attractive point in STEAM education, it is actually facing great challenges at the moment in China. Most of PBL is happening in private schools by now. Public school is slower to adopt the innovation. And, some schools were in lack of experienced teachers. It will take a long time to see the widespread of PBL adoption in China. But, other countries in the world are also experiencing this long PBL journey.
- STEAM education in Makerspace
In China, two factors stimulate the development of STEAM education. One is a multitude of makerspaces have sprung up in 2015. In 2015, the China Premier, Li Keqiang, decreed that makerspaces would be a part of China's economic development plan. This was followed by the government funding of hundreds of makerspaces across China. The other reason is China's Economic Maturity. As Chinese economy first started to grow rapidly in the 1970s, when it required the graduates to have the ability associated with low-cost labour, for example the ability to follow instructions. By now, as China's economy matures, Chinese companies need to focus much more on creation and innovation to make a living. The Chinese education system is criticized for not being able to provide the skills required by this innovation-led economy. Makerspaces is designed for hands-on, collaborative, creative work, precisely required by China's economy today.
In the years from 2015 to 2020, many public and private schools opened school makerspaces where students could build, innovate and explore the complexity of systems as a cross-subject learner, propelled by government or companies sponsored makerspaces.
Wenzhou High School, located in Wenzhou, in the southeastern Zhejiang Province in China, is the first public school to set up makerspace in 2013. In the school makerspace, it includes spaces for maker and STEAM activities and equipped with 3D printers, audio-visual equipment, hands tools and other storage carts can be filled with age-appropriate materials. It takes Arduino as the main implementation platform and is also equipped with Raspberry Pi computers for students to turn their ideas into the real and tangible objects. Wenzhou High School makerspace also gains the support from DFRobot, which donates 3D printers and STEAM educational kits.
In addition, many universities are setting up their own makerspaces in China. At present, the i.Center, based at Tsinghua University in China, which is the world largest makerspace at 16,000 square meters.
- STEAM Competitions for Kids
STEAM competition like kid coding has been gaining attention in recent years in China. Engaging young kids in competitions is a sure way to get them excited to learn. Here kids find a community and pick up skills such as critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving.
In March 2019, the Ministry of Education of China announced the "Key Points of Education Informatization and Network Security Work in 2019", proposing to promote the establishment of courses related to artificial intelligence in primary and secondary schools, and to gradually promote programming education. The future national competition is about artificial intelligence, and coding is the basic skill at the AI era.
With encouraging governmental policies, capitals began to flood into the market for kid coding education. Currently, Scratch, Makecode and Mind+ are the three popular programming languages in China from iiMedia Research.
- Hands-on Remote Learning
Due to a nationwide epidemic control mechanism, China was the first country to mandate school closures. 270 million Chinese students are restricted to their homes. STEAM education is forced to transform from offline to online and has become a fantastic way for students to continue their education whilst having fun at home.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on education development in China, STEAM education still attracts large-scale investment because of its interdisciplinary learning, problem-solving and real-life assessment.
2020 China STEAM Education-Related Enterprise Financing Situation (Partial) from iiMedia Research
Series D Funding
CNY 1.3 billion
Series C Funding
CNY 120 million
Series B Funding
Tens of millions of CNY
About the future STEAM development in China, Ricky Ye points out, "STEAM education in China has developed rapidly and future market growth will depend on how quickly it gains broad acceptance, which is related to the integration with national curriculum, changes in teachers and parents' teaching methods and investment. High-quality STEAM education is high-quality project-based learning. There is still a long way to localize it into China's educational environment but the future is bright."
 Quote from British Council: Made-in-China-Makerspaces-and-the-search-for-mass-innovation
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