By 2030, more than half of the jobs in the world will be STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — based.
According to research from Brookings — a Washington based research institution — more STEM-oriented metropolitan economies perform strongly on a wide range of economic indicators, from innovation to employment.
How prepared are we for this reality? Are students in Africa schools equipped to take advantage of this opportunity?
Technology companies are springing up, the number of jobs requiring STEM based skills is on the increase, but it is sad that Africans are poorly equipped to fill this huge gap.
Consequently, traditional education in Africa is failing, with STEM education being the worst hit. Students are largely uninspired to pursue their passion in STEM related fields, thereby leaving them unprepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century world.
In a quest to change this negative trend, TechGen in collaboration with the India STEM Alliance, has launched an initiative conceived and developed to promote STEM education in Africa by providing the right support and reward for students and other stakeholders.
The initiative is poised to support young Africans who are interested in acquiring the problem-solving skills that come with a solid STEM education in order to fix the challenges facing Africans in various sectors of the economy. This initiative would ultimately position young Africans to compete favourably with their colleagues globally.
What is STEM?
A lot of works were done by modern scientists to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics together. Initially they came up with the acronym METS and then SMET, until Judith Ramaley came up with the acronym STEM two decades ago.
Judith Rameley is an American biologist and academic administrator. She is now a distinguished professor at Portland state university.
STEM can be defined as intentional integration of four academic disciplines (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
The propagation of STEM can be attributed to Vernon Ehlers-a physicist, who made the first public use of word STEM when he created the STEM education caucus in 2005. Others doing great job as regards widespread of STEM education across the globe are STEM.org, TechGen Africa, India STEM alliance, Brainiac STEM etc.
STEM movement is dynamic, it continues to evolve in new interesting ways driven largely by skills required in our 21st century and it’s control is not centralized to an organization or anybody.
Although, several debates are ongoing as to whether to incorporate ‘art’ into STEM such that we now have STEAM.
For a project or lesson to be regarded as STEM, there must be an intentional integration of the four subject areas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is therefore not enough to singularly regard coding, robotics and mathematics as STEM.
Students apply their knowledge of science and mathematics to engineer a new product and also use their knowledge of technology and mathematics to aid science research projects.
Although, STEM is the foundation of innovation and vital for any economy to thrive as it teaches 21st century skills like problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and creativity, the next generation of science standard requires the integration of the four academic disciplines contained in STEM to be taught as a subject rather than in isolation.
In the real world, science relies on technology, engineering and mathematics while engineering use technology, science and mathematics.
Imagine elementary school pupils being thought in a way that highlights the connection of these four subjects, teaching will no doubt become more relevant.
Schools who are willing to embrace this new trending 21st century skill should consult STEM companies and consultants to set-up innovation labs, develop STEM curriculum and train their academic staffs.