By Fan Lok-yi
For many years, there has been a strong divide between humanities and science subjects in Hong Kong high school education. While science subjects are generally considered more “useful” and therefore the better option for most students, not many actually go on to pursue pure science in universities, nor a career in science.
In an exam-oriented environment, learning is limited to tackling things that one needs to know to pass the exam. Anything beyond the exam syllabus is considered irrelevant. It is therefore difficult to nurture real passion for science in students as they cannot relate the theories they learn with real life or explore what they can do with the knowledge they have. While there are still some people working in science, we have not noticed any local science magazine, online platform, TV programme, application of science knowledge in social innovation projects or other signs of citizen science here.
At MaD (Make a Difference), we try to inspire young people to create positive personal and social change. Throughout the year, we run Jockey Club Make a Difference School, a series of cross-disciplinary programmes to bridge the gap in formal education. Noticing the gap between science and everyday life, we were very delighted to collaborate with Public Lab and to introduce civic science to Hong Kong in the MaD School programme “How to Do Your Own Environmental Research”.
On April 8th 2014, Liz Barry of Public Lab introduced the Public Lab community and process to 40 participants from different backgrounds whom were each given a spectrometer kit. Although some people had to struggle a little before assembling or calibrating the spectrometer successfully, they all found the workshop a very special and fun experience. Two artists whose works involved rainbows found it a great inspiration. There is still a long way to go for the local civic science community to take shape, but we hope that the workshop made an impact on this small group of participants.
Several women in Guangzhou, mainland China, have started participating in Public Lab’s community through building and testing the DIY tools (Heshan and Keledoll), hosting discussions on community science (Sunnie), and exploring possible collaborations with the organizations that they are affiliated with including, Yi-Gather (the largest coworking space in south china) and Green Innovation Hub. In 2014 a spectrometry workshop to identify fraudulent food oils was organized in Taipei by Muyeuh as part of Open Source Developers Conference—14 people attended. Stay tuned for developments in East Asia!