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What is STEM Education and Why Should Africa Care?

 

What is STEM education and why should Africa care?


"Improving education is one of the best investments the world can make. Along with health, education is an investment in the future, and a necessary building block on the path to greater well-being for people and communities" 

GLOBAL EDUCATION PROGRAM, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


“The average age in Africa is 18, and it’s going to stay 18 for a long time. The average age on the other continents is in the late 30s, and it’s going up. By the end of the century almost half the young people in the world will be in sub-Saharan Africa. These young people in Africa can be a huge asset if they are healthy and educated. They drive economic growth, they drive innovation, so it is a challenge to the world to invest in their health and education. It really pays off”  Bill Gates, 2019


While there is definitely a need for an initial emphasis on foundational learning  such as reading, writing and mathematics in primary grades, once this foundation is in place there is a need to prepare African students to compete and success against other continents. 


“Educate to Innovate” is a term coined by the Obama administration in an effort to motivate and inspire students to excel in STEM subjects. STEM is more than just a grouping of subject areas. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific underpinnings African students will need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce. 


STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.


The good news? Not every STEM job requires higher education or even a university degree. Less than half of entry-level STEM jobs require a bachelor's degree or higher. 


What separates STEM from the traditional science and math education is the blended learning environment and showing students how the scientific method can be applied to everyday life in Africa. It teaches students computational thinking and focuses on the real world applications of problem solving. 

STEM education begins while students are very young:


Primary School — STEM education focuses on the introductory level STEM courses, as well as awareness of the STEM fields and occupations. This initial step provides standards-based structured inquiry-based and real world problem-based learning, connecting all four of the STEM subjects. The goal is to pique students' interest and motivate them to pursue the courses because they want too, not because it is a requirement.
 

Secondary  school — At this stage, the courses become more rigorous and challenging. Student awareness of STEM fields and occupations is still pursued, as well as the academic requirements of such fields. Student exploration of STEM related careers begins at this level. In the planned STEM lessons, students will address real African social, economic, and environmental problems and seek solutions. 


Additional information

GLOBAL EDUCATION PROGRAM, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

STEMPOWER - To imbue a love of STEM in underserved capable students

Africa STEM Alliance (ASA) 

Going to Bat for Africa

Develop supplemental curricula and facilities that immerse students in education, sport, and physical activities allowing participants to cultivate and promote their STEM literacy, engagement, and retention.

Find out more