STEM Education is Vital to National Development. Here’s How We Can Support It
Taking an integrated approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is crucial to the growth of developing countries. It should be enhanced wherever possible.
STEM – an integrated approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – promotes the learning of the 21st century skills and provides developing countries with the tools they need to improve people’s lives.
Surveys in developing countries show STEM education needs improvement in a variety of areas. We recommend the following:
Revamp the curricula: It is not necessary for a STEM subject to be introduced in schools when the levels of science, engineering, technology, and mathematics need improvement. In fact, many countries do not have a STEM subject in the school curricula. However, there is a need for students and teachers to be exposed to low-cost initiatives that can promote integrated STEM education.
Explicit articulation of STEM learning outcomes for each topic in a subject can better ensure the breadth and depth to which a topic needs to be taught and assessed. There is also a need to ensure that assessment goes beyond recall of facts. Test questions need to be pitched, as far as possible, at a number of levels so that students’ learning can be assessed more rigorously.
Encourage students’ interest in science and mathematics: Some of these programs can be on how to make STEM lessons more interesting. For example, using demonstrations with commonly available materials to showcase scientific concepts in a topic, formation of science clubs in schools (or raising activity levels of existing clubs), project work, and training teachers on how to inspire students in science and mathematics. Schools can also have visitors, who work in the fields of engineering and technology.
Improving teacher training: STEM education offerings need to be revamped at the pre-service level so that trainee teachers are better prepared when they are deployed in schools. That means STEM subject staff in teacher education institutes need to enhance their teaching methods as well as introduce courses that are aligned with contemporary thinking in these subjects.
Teacher educators in STEM subjects also need to undergo professional development programs that can upskill their competencies further and thus help to keep them abreast of the latest developments in leading teacher education institutes in the world. Their research skills also need to be improved.
Surveys in developing countries show STEM education needs improvement in a variety of areas.
Improve teacher development: Teachers must have multidisciplinary knowledge in various subjects and learn to work with other teachers. Professional development opportunities in STEM education will help teachers nurture students’ critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills. These initiatives can include, for example, how to use innovative approaches to teach STEM, how to develop low-cost STEM teaching aids, and conducting action research in schools.
Establish science centers: Research has established the important role that science centers can play in boosting science literacy levels, getting students excited about STEM, offering a possibility for schools, teachers, and students to promote their science, engineering, and technology projects, and contributing to the socioeconomic development of a country. Such science centers should also be established in developing member countries, preferably one in each of their major cities.
While there are no scientific societies that are set up in the nongovernment organization mode in many developing countries, these can be established as grassroots endeavors. However, they must be championed by prominent or influential scientists. Then they can support schools in many different ways in STEM education, besides contributing to nation building efforts.
Increasing internet bandwidth in schools: Teachers of STEM subjects as well as school leaders have cited slow internet connectivity in schools. This is one reason why teachers cannot access internet resources to support teaching and learning. Internet bandwidth in schools should be dramatically increased for enhancing educational effectiveness.
STEM education plays a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, improving the lives of people around the world, and in ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all. It should be enhanced and developed wherever possible.