Technology is, of course, a double edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us. Jason Silva
This week I was at a Global STEM women leadership summit in Atlanta, Georgia and it was remarkable witnessing women from various STEM fields, accomplished, experienced and resilient in their personal and professional lives listen to one another as well as exhort one another.
It got me thinking about how to make science and math a rallying cry in Africa to drive creating an emergence of technology firms that solve Africa’s problems. This starts with focusing resources around education. Countries in Africa lag behind the Global North (developed nations) in terms of scientific aptitude and output. Unfortunately the situation is not improving fast enough. There has been attempts to invest in increasing this through considerable investment over the past decades, countries in the Global south – with the exception of Brazil and China – appear to be losing ground in research. Many of their brightest scholars have been trained around the world. Those who go back home wrangle with poor infrastructure and a lack of support. Others relocate for good.
There was an emphasis on learning STEM subjects in the 70s and 80s in China and these efforts have paid off. Three to four decades later, China is able to engage in a trade war with the United States. A huge part of this conflict is centered around technology. It has clearly shown the necessity for technological talent which directly correlates with a dire need for reform in the educational system. (over $500 million),
Over there China, people agree that improving the country’s education system as the most urgent task. They agree that high tech growth can only be accomplished with deliberate efforts in the educational system being enhanced with the focus on building the skills of the students.
All across the world STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—- disciplines are seen as crucial for a nation to become a high tech generator. The United States, along with other countries around the world, are clearly mapping out plans for of increasing STEM majors to meet the expanding need for workers who are prepared to compete in an increasingly technological world, specifically requiring the knowledge and problem-solving skills of various fields of STEM.
Our priorities should be on investing more in developing scientists, engineers and mathematicians, instead of pouring money blindly into various educational reforms that aren’t specifically targeted on boosting scientific research and innovation.
The learning visits I had in between the conferences that I was a part of, and interviewing the high school students revealed that there is a huge gap in how our students in Africa utilize their education-they lack a deep understanding of the natural sciences and mathematics apply to the real world.
Student retention in STEM here in Africa is a continuing problem, but an expansion of strategies to widen the STEM pipeline is the first step to be accomplished. We start by improving students’ interest in STEM subjects and thereby recruiting STEM students through 1) engaging students in active learning through STEM in their classrooms and 2) helping STEM teachers use teaching strategies with real world problems that interest students.
Two fantastic examples of this that I had at the conference was a music teacher who created musical compositions around space explorations. Another woman formed a business around teaching students to create video games which taught the students about coding, problem solving, and critical thinking.
All I could think about was how to create programs like this in Africa to drive future readiness of students, to enable them compete globally.
Africa’s science capacity needs to expand by more than 10 times to have half the number of scientists per population that the UK has. Ponder upon this and realize how much work has to be done.
Adetola Salau; Global Educator / International Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur/ Innovative Thinker/Future Readiness Advocate/ STEM Certified Trainer
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness.