• Subject Name : Early Childhood

A Study of Primary School Principal in Hong Kong

Abstract on Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

STEM refers to the use of science, technology, engineering, as well as mathematics in the field of imparting education is considered to be vital for the incubation of the prospective scientists, engineers, along with the inventors. The process involved in context to the teaching as well as learning associated with the implementation of STEM in the education system requires the teachers as well as the students to employ a creative thought process design as well as refers to a multi-disciplinary knowledge. All these in turn led to a formulation of a new solution for the rising problems. School teachers along with the principals are facing a number of challenges while implementing the STEM concept into the present primary educational system of Hong Kong. With Self-efficacy’s application considering the concerned theoretical stages, this study aims to reveal Hong Kong School Principals’ responses in regards to the STEM’s implementation in the primary education system. The research finding reflects a fact that there is an urgent need to provide the teachers with an articulated development in the professional fields, hence providing pedagogic support, as well as a curricular resource toward the empowering of them to implement STEM education in real-time educative practices.

Table of Contents


Aim and objective.

Research questions.

Significance of the research.


Research problem..

Literature Review..


Data Analysis.


Interview transcript




Introduction to Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

At the present time, education is considered as the most crucial sector associated with the whole society. The whole of the educational system acts as the most crucial aspect in context to the development of the new people from millennium generation. Although the quality related to the concept of education is furthermore considered as in the form of main criteria in context to the country’s development. A number of Strategic efforts are required in the direction of establishing a successful education system (Wong & Huen, 2017). All these strategically placed efforts will be instrumental in improving the capacity as well as the capability associated with the education at a considerably higher level directly related to the aspect of quality. It also takes into consideration the aspect of educational excellence so as to mitigate all the associated challenges arising in this 21st century. The 21st century brings about more complex changes that are occurring rapidly, and the conventional leadership of the past is having problems in overcoming these challenges. STEM education has become one of the most significant education movements of the 21st century, which is an interdisciplinary field of study that is instrumental in linking the aspect of science, required the implementation of technology, along with engineering, as well as considers mathematics as well. There is a rapid surge of technological, scientific, and business inventions around the globe. Implementation of the STEM system is still a headache to primary school principals as they struggle to implement the framework in this century (Kim, Chu & Lim, 2015).

Aim and Objective of Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

The goal of this research is to understand the challenges facing the principals in STEM education and identifying ways to overcoming these challenges across primary schools in Hong Kong.


  • To understand as well as identify the contextual challenges as faced by a primary school’s principal
  • To identifying and finding ways to mitigate these challenges as faced by primary school’s principal

Research questions

  • What are the challenges associated with the implementation of STEM in the primary education system of Hong Kong?
  • How the challenges can be mitigated in an effective way?
  • In what way these challenges impact the primary education system of Hong Kong?

Significance of The Research

This study is significant to cater to the issues related to the implementations of STEM in the primary education system of Hong Kong by the principals. Institutionalized STEM refers to a systemic approach of an individual who goes by the facts at a steady rate and is trained to take comfort in pre-existing and well-defined methods of approaching any problem. This fundamentally contradicts the philosophy of implementing a scientific system of inquiry and attracts skepticism. The primary school principal who couldn't meet the criteria of implementing STEM would justify his/her shortcomings by proclaiming how they have been trained to become a principal at the primary school. Another issue related to the predominant teaching strategy adopts STEM to adopt an experiential approach. Students learn primarily through repetition and by taking clear instructions on how things ought to be done. This ostracizes conceptual learners. This sensory learning experience could in-part explain the lack of conceptual understanding. When students are in constant competition for higher grades they are rewarded as per the expectations exceptionally and lose all incentive to try and fail. Creativity can never flourish in a discipline where people are always looking out to maintain their rank and reputation. STEM seems to place a large wager on outwardly credentials and accomplishments which prompts students to chase some particular specifications in the process. An apt solution to these problems associated with incentivized learning can never prove to be a meaningful learning experience (Fendos, 2018).

Hypothesis of Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

H0: The greater number of educational reforms in context to the implementation of STEM in the primary education system of Hong Kong increases complexity in the way of pertaining to education.

H1: The implementation of STEM in the primary education system of Hong Kong by the school principals makes the way of imparting education in a systematic one.

H2: The challenges of implementing STEM in Primary Educational institutions of Hong Kong hinder the process of imparting education.

H3: STEM has got its demerits in terms of implementing the primary education system of Hong Kong by the school principals.

H4: A systematic approach to making the primary education system more effective is by implementing stem.

H5: The implementation of STEM makes the education system less creative and more robotic.

Research Problem

At present times, education is based on the aspect of public interest. The education system’s role is considered to be very important in the context of the country's all-round development. It is a matter of fact that the country’s development is directly associated with the attempt of the education system to cater to an extraordinary educational quality. It involves the courage to develop and prepare the next generations of this new millennium era within the upcoming two years. As the education system is in need of a strategic effort that is instrumental in increasing the capacity as well as the ability to practice with a high level of excellence both in terms of quality and in the ways of mitigating educational challenges in this 21st century. It is expected that the overall education system will lead to some changes in context to the economic aspects, and also include both the aspects of culture as well as changes in political scenarios of a given country (Bybee, 2010). Thus, all these aspects of change are considered to be initiated at high and fast rates. The growing corporate culture is furthermore based on the process of democratization as well as decentralization of the power. Both these aspects mentioned above in context to the education system would in turn lead to a replacement of the traditional along with the prevention of practices related to the conventional hierarchy. With the increase in the competition, the global environment has experienced an intense increment that too intensely. All types of educative principles as well as the values will let to the determination of success quotient for any given educational organization. It is, therefore, the educational system as well as the school’s system that must operate in line with the changing global new millennium era. Hence, it tends to contribute highly toward the nation’s development. All the people who are engaged with this discussed field of operation need to prepare themselves by covering all angles. These include the implementation of a highly knowledge-based technology that can foster a nationalistic yet superior feeling of contentment in their soul. Now, conditionally if the people who are engaged are not well prepared with the adaptation of these changes, the country will not be able to compete with the standards of other developed countries (Xie, Fang & Shauman, 2015).

Literature Review of Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

In this chapter, the researcher attempts to review the literature available on the implementation of STEM in the primary education system of Hong Kong by the concerned principals of the schools. Most importantly it reviews various literary works that address this area as well as explain the challenges faced by a principal in implementing STEM and measures to overcome them. As many literary works have focused on the concepts of STEM but there is a difference in the views of the scholars. Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to STEM and address its challenges.

According to Kelley & Knowles (2016), meaningful work is almost always intrinsically-motivated whose rewards are independent of the immediate environment, not involving social constructs like the grades in school. Without nurturing a strong sense of curiosity in the students, a teacher cannot induce interest in the students. As there was no scientific temperament implementation of STEM can lead to bad grades and make the students suffer. There was no clear rationale behind these demands as for example while implementing STEM in studying English students were allowed to be creative, as they were allowed to think by themselves. The teachers encouraged them to use this time for meaningful reflection and learning because English wasn't seen as an important subject. The resulting effect leads to a more physically-inclined student's mentality in which they were allowed to learn by scribbling down their ideas, ripping out, and trashing their work when they didn't like it. In other word by allowing them to fail and try new things can induce interest in the study. Concluding the author stated that the urge to gain knowledge through the implementation of hit and trial method in the primary system of education can make them self dependent and more inclined toward adapting to new systems of study and gain knowledge in an effective way.

Supporting Jang (2016) stated that, students need to be allowed to sit express themselves freely. A number of activities are to be induced systematically so that the students find it interesting and creative. Being toddlers at the end of the day, as mentioned in the example above everyone took away something from English class that was equally meaningful to their lives. They were able to discuss or express those things which they cared deeply about. After all, as envisaged by the author, the mentioned act of expressing their views through a systematic study or implementation of STEM allowed the students of the concerned primary schools to pursue meaningful yet achievable goals in school.

On the contrary Wong (2017), raised the question of "How can it be expected from the students to be happy when someone takes away the essence of the education that makes them creative?" Describing the fact he explained that this black-and-white thinking also presupposes the inability to orient oneself within the broader picture. In context to the primary schools of Hong Kong, most of the idea of implementing STEM in their educational institutions fails or gets abandoned due to one or the other extenuating circumstances. But the experience that an individual gain from the way of implementing this system is considered to be priceless. It is noticed that most of the principals are socially aware which signals a frequently overlooked kind of intelligence in context to the implementation of STEM in their system of education. As for an example, it signifies the conceptualization of the theory of multiple intelligences. On the other hand through the implementation of STEM in their curriculum or medium of instruction they don't readily discriminate and keep a very open mind. Concluding he stated that, in a STEM-based education system the principals on the contrary; seem to have strongly held opinions about their supremacy.

Methodology of Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

This particular study tries to figure out the main challenges faced by principles in this present 21st century. The main aim of conducting this study is to produce results on behalf of the principals and find some solutions to the main challenges. This research is instrumental in helping them to induce a new culture, based on educational reforms that impact the way of catering high-quality effective educations to the primary school goers’. This is also something that will help them to cope with the rising context of competition and even gain a competitive advantage over other primary educational institutions as well. In the context of this chapter, it can be said that it provides as well as explains the process of collecting samples and create a plan for the same. This plan on going further helps the researcher in completing the study by collecting data. Consequently, it provides a guideline in finding an answer to the research questions. Alongside it, this particular chapter tends to explain the details of contextual sampling design, as well as creates a unit of analysis. It addresses the researcher's objectives by providing the right kind of sampling size includes the data collection procedures as well as creates a plan for the conducting of a successful data analysis (Malik, 2018).

Research Approach

A qualitative research approach will be used to perception of the current STEM implementation in primary schools. Interviews and questionnaires will be the primary methods of data collection while internet sources will act as secondary sources of data. The schools selected must also be in the process of implementation of the new STEM curriculum. Information about the primary schools and their principals will be obtained from the Hong Kong ministry of education. Because of the coronavirus situation in Hong Kong at the moment, both questionnaires and interviews will be administered online.

Research Design

This is a descriptive research study as according to Salkind (2006), this descriptive research is instrumental in describing the current issues faced by the Hong Kong-based primary school principals. In addition to it, all the descriptive research was conducted in view of understanding the events that occur in this present day scenario. Not only this study also considers the ways it might able to relate with those of the problems and the way of finding solutions by the others. Additionally, it is instrumental in relating the contextual purpose of conducting descriptive research with the affairs of the current study (Salkind, 2006). By using this design, during the conducting of the study, the researcher tends to explore and address the main challenges that a principal might face in this present 21st century. This particular research is held along the primary school based in Hong Kong and deals with the challenges and the ways to mitigate them by the respective school principals.

Data collection

For the data collection procedures, the primary data collection method will be used. The researcher's plan is distributing questionnaires to the selected schools online by the link of the PDF form. The participant is only able to fill it just once. This will ensure that all the data given by the respondent is kept confidential. The researcher will collect the questionnaire after one week to analyze the data obtained in the study. The instruments of the study are survey questionnaires that are formulated based on the research objectives. The interviews will be conducted to gain the feedback of principals from selected primary schools in Hong Kong to get their scope on leadership in STEM education. Therefore, semi-structured interviews will be utilized to offer participants in primary school leadership to make sense of the notion of STEM education. The interviews will conduct over the internet using zoom conference software and the interview process will not be recorded. The following interview questions will address the 21st-century concerns on the learning process at top-performing primary schools in Hong Kong on the face of the adoption of modern information technologies.

Sampling Frame

In this study, the sampling frame is limited to the principles of the targeted schools in Hong Kong. The population or targeted participants of this study involve the principals of primary schools.

Sample Size

In the opinion of Salkind (2006), big sample size is enough to find an accurate answer to the research question. Stating a point of caution he adds, that, the sample size should not be huge as it can make the sampling process uneconomical as well as highly inefficient. The respondent was randomly selected without getting bias in this study. This research’s sample size includes the primary school’s principals with varying age, demographic background, gender as well as race. The researcher focuses on 30 respondents and the study was conducted for one week.

Ethical consideration

Ethical consideration refers to making sure of the fact that while conducting a research-based investigation no harm to the participants done. It also applies to other research-based aspects. The research’s ethical consideration is based on the Data Protection Act of 1988. Under which the researchers maintain the confidentiality of identity associated with research participants. In addition to it, the contextual views of research participants were to be kept secure and at any cost not to be revealed to any other interest groups or even to other participants. Above and beyond, the data collected will be published anonymously without any point in revealing the participant’s real identity. In Basias & Pollalis (2018) opinion, maintaining participant’s confidentiality helps to express their views and opinions freely and answer proactively to the researcher’s question.


  1. What is the IT challenge encountered while incorporating its use for application in the STEM education at the school?

There is a lack of instructional skills based on misconceptions and STEM education’s promotion.

  1. What are the shortcomings encountered by the schools in the use of IT in the teaching and learning process?

The main problem involved with the incorporation of IT in the teaching and learning process includes the aspect of infrastructure lacking.

  1. Does the school have a reliable internet connection that will make the implementation of STEM education easier for both the learners and teachers?

To this question, the principal said yes and are confident to imply STEM in their primary curriculum.

  1. Is the implementation of the school-based assessment system on STEM education go to change the comprehension and understanding of the learners?

To this question the principal exclaimed with a YES answer, adding he stated that it will make the learning process more interesting and the STEM-based challenges will help the toddlers to learn fast. 

  1. What is the attitude of the students towards the use of IT on STEM education?

To this question, the principal stated that the students are highly interested in availing this opportunity to lean in a creative interactive way.

Interview Transcript

Question 1: What steps have 21st-century leadership in STEM education has the principals taken to make their schools among the top performers in the country?


By inducing culture's appreciation for innovative and scientific problem-solving.

Table 1: Response of Question 1

Question 2:What are the challenges the schools are facing in promoting active engagement in connection to the personal interests and career goals of students?


The challenges that the schools are facing include time commitment, ensuring a positive impact on the students through community learning, and enabling an effective yet attractive learning process. 

Table 2: Response of Question 2

Question 3:How have each of the top-performing and bottom ten primary schools addressed STEM education in terms of developing requisite dispositions and skills by tutors that are necessary to supporting science literacy and students' career choices?


STEM education can be applied by adding games to topics that children have trouble understanding. STEM is used for cognitive and critical thinking by allocating them with practical challenges by adding prizes. Curiosity about a subject encourages them to learn more.

Table 3: Response of Question 3

Question 4:How has the school principals fostered a productive learning environment in the classroom that can be considered to be flexible and promotes independent inquiry by learners through problem-based learning?


To foster a productive flexible and independent problem-based learning environment he will explore and state the issues by defining them. Conduct issue-based knowledge research then will investigate the solutions. He will then present as well as support the solution by review the student's performance.

Table 4: Response of Question 4

Question 5:How have the principal's faced hindrances in promoting active engagement in STEM education based on the students' goals and personal interests?


Challenges include paperwork, the framing of sustainable decision and strategy making that influences the institutional performance. Scheduling of the task like Recruitment, conducting faculty evaluation, and maintaining attendance and discipline. Designing of a STEM-based curriculum to avail positive student outcomes.

Table 5: Response of Question 5

Question 6:What are the steps taken by the school principles to ensure the student’s academic achievement in STEM education is satisfactory?


Developing a healthy communication competition and mutual respect both amongst the teachers and the students. Setting high-quality clear expectations toward the target achievement. Insisting the students develop quality students' behavioral approaches toward studies. Getting them to read and write twice daily.

Table 6: Response of Question 6

Question 7:How has the implementation of STEM education at schools impacted the use of IT in the teaching and learning process?


Technology impacts the ways STEM subjects are taught and internalized using IT as it incorporates collaborative, as well as active learning activities fostering dynamic, personalized learning environments by driving stronger learning outcomes. IT pervades every part of a STEM-based education system and makes math and science fun as well as interesting subjects to learn for the primary student.

Table 7: Response of Question 7

Question 8:What is the significance identified by having adequate resources that will handle the transition of learning STEM education at schools?


Learning resources in STEM include texts, videos, software, as well as other materials that are used by the teachers to assist students in meeting their learning expectations as per the curriculum. As a resource center in schools are staffed by a specialist, with access to several information sources.

Table 8: Response of Question 8

Discussion on Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

All the above-mentioned ones prove the fact that the implementation of a STEM-based educational system can lead to more interactive learning and create an interest in complicated subjects like maths and science. Based on the above data gained from the Hong Kong-based primary school principal, it is observed that the process of implementing STEM in the education system can be done through some steps. As per Pickering, Yuen & Wang (2016), all these STEM-based steps creates the convenience of learning both for the teachers as well as the students. In this way, the system of imparting education becomes more interesting and catchy alongside paving way for the securitization of the minute details. On the other hand, as stated by Cheng & So (2020), often these STEM-based steps lead to some complex change in the educational infrastructure of the Hong Kong based primary schools. These involve huge monetary investment as well as at some point create confusion creating further a gap in the process of understanding or implementing STEM in the existing traditional ways of primary education. However, as per the verdicts of the principal, several executed steps in context to the implementation of STEM include a number of challenges that need to be mitigated with counter strategic planning and efficiency in the education system. Although the automatic interpretation in this process of primary education further involves IT by the school. It also involves regular maintenance and updating of the system for educational convenience.

Conclusion on Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

It is likely that the STEM in the primary education system for Hong Kong did not happen despite the principal's efforts to educate students. It is caused by the way the students get an education. The silo philosophy associated with academic instruction leaves students behind and is not founded on the ways students learn as per the real-world's application requirement. Using an academic model with the application of a discrete STEM-based educational model can be sought as a solution to the problem of imparting a just and effective form of primary education. At times the challenges involved like the traditional mindsets of the existing faculty team create hindrances for the principals to induce STEM in their educational curriculum. It has been made clear, in this study that the challenge involved in the process of effective teaching with integrated math as well as science-based content makes the process of educating the students a bit more interesting as they can tickle the curiosity of them in abundance. Furthermore, this is something in context to this paper can be called as a scope that goes beyond the associated qualifications of the teachers as they tend to underperform under the influence of Hitech STEM-based educational methods (Freeman, Marginson & Tytler, 2019). The academic course for STEM works with the incorporation of certain opportunities like the assimilation of a hands-on experience designed to create a more intuitive and engaging learning experience for the toddlers. This way the students will learn to ply their academic as well as technological skills. A STEM academy attracts students with similar career interests and structures their academic programs around their respective fields of interest.

References for Challenges for 21st Century Leadership in Stem Education

Bybee, R. W. (2010). Advancing STEM education: A 2020 vision. Technology and engineering teacher, 70(1), 30. Retrieved from: https://search.proquest.com/openview/75bbe8b13bf3f54ebd755333ffd8621e/1?pqorigsite=gscholar&cbl=34845

Cheng, Y. C., & So, W. W. M. (2020). Managing STEM learning: A typology and four models of integration. International Journal of Educational Management. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJEM-01-2020-0035/full/html

Fendos, J. (2018). US experiences with STEM education reform and implications for Asia. International Journal of Comparative Education and Development. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJCED-10-2017-0026/full/html

Freeman, B., Marginson, S., & Tytler, R. (2019). An international view of stem education. In STEM Education 2.0 (pp. 350-363). Brill Sense. Retrieved from: https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/60577211/

Jang, H. (2016). Identifying 21st century STEM competencies using workplace data. Journal of science education and technology, 25(2), 284-301. Retrieved from: https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1511/1511.05858.pdf

Kelley, T. R., & Knowles, J. G. (2016). A conceptual framework for integrated STEM education. International Journal of STEM Education, 3(1), 11. Retrieved from: https://stemeducationjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40594-016-0046-z

Kim, Y., Chu, H. E., & Lim, G. (2015). Science curriculum changes and STEM education in East Asia. In Science Education in East Asia (pp. 149-226). Springer, Cham. Retrieved from: https://researchers.mq.edu.au/en/publications/science-curriculum-changes-and-stem-education-in-eastasia

Malik, R. S. (2018). Educational challenges in 21st century and sustainable development. Journal of Sustainable Development Education and Research, 2(1), 9-20. Retrieved from: https://ejournal.upi.edu/index.php/JSDER/article/view/12266

Pickering, T. A., Yuen, T. T., & Wang, T. (2016, December). STEM conversations in social media: Implications on STEM education. In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) (pp. 296-302). IEEE. Retrieved from: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/7851810/

Wong, G. K. (2017, December). Integrative learning in K-12 STEM education: How to prepare the first step?. In 2017 IEEE 6th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) (pp. 80-87). IEEE. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gary_Wong4/publication/322415880_Integrative_learning_in_K-12_STEM_education_How_to_prepare_the_first_step/links/5bd1d209458515343d58ee09/Integrative-learning-in-K-12-STEM-education-How-to-prepare-the-first-step.pdf

Wong, G. K., & Huen, J. H. (2017, December). A conceptual model of integrated STEM education in K-12. In 2017 IEEE 6th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE) (pp. 296-302). IEEE. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gary_Wong4/publication/322409234_A_conceptual_model_of_integrated_STEM_education_in_K-12/links/5bd1d1d9a6fdcc690ae386d8/A-conceptual-model-of-integrated-STEM-education-in-K-12.pdf

Xie, Y., Fang, M., & Shauman, K. (2015). STEM education. Annual review of sociology, 41, 331-357.Retrieved from: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-soc-071312-145659

Remember, at the center of any academic work, lies clarity and evidence. Should you need further assistance, do look up to our Early Childhood Assignment Help

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