Recognising the need and opportunity for innovation and improvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, the AUDA-NEPAD STEM Education Project convened a group of experts and stakeholders in a series of national consultative meetings in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and Malawi and later Gabon, in order to assess the needs of each country as a benchmark for providing interventions in STEM education in these beneficiary pilot countries.
The purpose of the stakeholder consultative meetings was to share knowledge on the core problem, causes, propose solutions and identify possible collaborative strategies between AUDA-NEPAD and beneficiary countries for bridging the knowledge, skill gaps, develop and sustain a culture of STEM education. During her opening remarks in Nigeria, the Project Coordinator, Dr Justina Dugbazah indicated that AUDA-NEPAD has adopted a bottom-up approach to ensure optimum country participation and ownership, and invariably sustainability of the project by countries.
The stakeholders were drawn from pre-service and in-service teachers from basic and secondary schools in urban, rural and peri-urban areas, universities, colleges of education, educational leadership, decision and policy makers from the Ministries of Education, Science and Technology, Boards of Education such as Universal Basic Education Board, and Secondary Education Board and Departments of Policy Research Planning and Statistics.
The complexities of today’s world require all people to be equipped with a new set of core knowledge and skills to solve difficult problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information they receive from varied print and, increasingly, digital media. According to Dr. Ambumulire Phiri, Principal of Nalikule College, Lilongwe, Malawi “the AUDA-NEPAD STEM education project is very timely and relevant to our college because the learning and doing of STEM helps our staff to prepare students for a workforce where success results not just from what one knows, but what one is able to do with that knowledge.”
This sentiment was echoed by the Principal of the Accra College of Education, Ghana, who opined during his welcome remarks at one of the stakeholder’s meeting that “a strong STEM education is becoming increasingly recognized as a key driver of opportunity, and data show the need for STEM knowledge and skills will grow and continue into the future. Those graduates who have practical and relevant STEM precepts embedded into their educational experiences will be in high demand in all job sectors.” Stakeholders in Ethiopia argued that “the set of core cognitive knowledge, skills, and abilities that are associated with a STEM education are now in demand not only in traditional STEM occupations, but also in nearly all job sectors and types of positions”.
During the national consultations across the four countries, stakeholders identified persistent inequities in access, participation, and success in STEM subjects that exist along socioeconomic, gender, and geographic lines, as well as among students with disabilities. Findings from the national consultative meetings revealed that STEM education disparities threaten African countries’ ability to close education and poverty gaps, meet the demands of a technology-driven economies, ensure national security, and maintain preeminence in scientific research and technological innovation. Presently, policies and practices that ensure equitable access to the best STEM teaching and learning are not widespread. Data from national consultations further show that rural and peri-urban public schools are especially challenged in meeting student performance benchmarks in mathematics and science.
In recognition of the widening skills and opportunity gaps in STEM, the AUDA-STEM Education project in collaboration with partner institutions, have identified interventions for capacity strengthening and institutional strengthening in STEM pedagogy and teaching methodology. The project is collaborating with public, private and government entities to promote greater equity in STEM academic and career pathways around shared goals, contributing to efforts by African countries to implement innovative approaches to STEM teaching and learning. The capacity strengthening model will adopt a trainer of trainers (ToT) model by bringing together diverse teams of experts to iterate continuously on STEM responsive curriculum and teaching methodology.
Dr Justina Dugbazah stated that the observations, considerations and recommendations from stakeholders for transforming STEM education included the application of sciences research; STEM responsive pedagogy and teaching methodology, culturally relevant, inclusive, and accessible learning experiences; technology to enhance and expand learning; early and frequent exposure to STEM in formal and informal settings; and networked systems of STEM and STI learning in beneficiary countries. These contributions according to the Project Coordinator, will serve as the foundation for the STEM capacity strengthening workshops.