“The science community believes that STEM is the greatest value to man and its environment. It has a dual mandate, which is to ensure that everybody has a basic literacy in science and to prepare future engineers, medical doctors and others in the society. “We are in this present situation in our country because STEM education is not in the forefront. How many of us know and have an idea of the universe? Many countries globally are manufacturing things, but sadly enough, in Nigeria, we can’t even fix a door. We are getting to an era of artificial intelligence, where computers are almost taking over from human beings, as computers are now taking design cues from the brain.” Professor Ben Akpan, Executive Director, Science Teachers Association of Nigeria – October 2017
“…these young scientists and engineers teach us something beyond the specific topics that they’re exploring. They teach us how to question assumptions; to wonder why something is the way it is, and how we can make it better. And they remind us that there’s always something more to learn, and to try, and to discover, and to imagine – and that it’s never too early, or too late to create or discover something new,” President Barack Obama – March 2016.
You may have noticed the term STEM has been making headlines. Be it the Chief Scientist, Science teachers, Minister of Education, or the President of the United States, all over the world STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is being publicised as one of the most essential elements for any society moving forward.
Nigeria is already behind in the STEM train. Not much is being said about it by our leaders, it seems to us that those who are driving it the most are in the private sector of engineering, science and technology. We are yet to see any national strategy for STEM. STEM in essence, looks at future technological development and the skills and industries required to meet the needs of society. If you consider some of the issues facing the world such as energy, food, health, the environment, climate change and the economic development of emerging countries, it is easy to see that STEM will play a major role in addressing these issues.
Education is always a key element of any strategy. STEM education has been a major focus in Europe and the US for over a decade. While Nigeria as a nation is late to the party, many schools have been in this space for some time. Many key players to drive this new hype in Education, believe that the necessary tools have not been put in place either in public or private schools.
The main principle behind STEM is that the application of STEM does not happen in isolation. You cannot design a solar car without understanding the science of solar cells and electric circuits, and the mathematics that underpins this. You cannot build the car without some engineering principles and project management skills.
Schools should play a pivotal role by asking students to move beyond the silos of learning that occur in individual subjects and bringing these concepts together in projects that combined the STEM elements. We cannot no longer pretend that the world is leaving us behind in this area. Have we ever wondered why a student who is not performing well in a Nigerian School goes off to other clime and becomes a star in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics? Is it our teaching method? Or is there something they are doing that we have failed to learn and practised? Could it be we have not developed the best method to suit our needs? May be our environment negates the performance of these students based on the kind of incentives they are provided with?
Whether we like it or not, virtually all aspects of our daily lives require us to be more tech-savvy and quantitatively focused than past generations, regardless of career. All of us have been able to relate to the dialogue about STEM because of how much our lives have been changed by technology. And guess what, is the basis for understanding technology? Literacy and numeracy. It all starts with STEM.
What are your thoughts?