STEM learning centre to be established

STEM learning centre to be established

Thursday, February 20, 2020

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PLANS are in place to establish a National STEM Learning Centre at The Mico University.

The learning centre is being designed to provide more local teachers with the skills to better equip students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The announcement was made by Dr Glen Christian, convenor of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Growth Task Force, while he addressed the launch of the Forecast 2020 Conference, which was held at The University of the West Indies (UWI), recently.

The conference is being organised in partnership with The UWI and the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), and will be held from June 9 to 12 under the theme: 'Science and Technology as a Pillar for Regional Transformation'.

According to Christian, a task force, to include experts from the public and private sectors, has been formed to work towards the creation of the centre. He said the task force plans to raise US$1.5 million to establish and equip the facility.

Christian said that the idea to establish the STEM centre came out of the dire need to increase the number of STEM teachers in Jamaica, to better prepare students and the future workforce for opportunities in science, innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.

He lamented that statistics unearthed by the task force revealed that less than 40 per cent of grade 11 students exiting the secondary school system passed mathematics, as a subject, and only about 5,000 or 12.5 per cent of the 40,000 students, who sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exam annually, sit a science subject.

Christian further noted that less than 15 per cent of the 1,800 educators who are teaching STEM-based subjects are qualified to do so.

He argued that this reality underpins the need for a National STEM Centre in Jamaica and called on the private sector to invest more in education.

“As a member of the private sector, I recognise that we cannot win without qualified workers. You cannot succeed without an investment in your people. It's not an expenditure, it's an investment,” said Christian.

“No matter what business you're in, you need STEM. You need STEM in tourism, as much as in areas of the environment. I need STEM in my warehouses, I need STEM in my factories, and we have to know, as members of the private sector, where we're going to get our employees from,” added Christian.

He said it is hoped that the centre will help to create a culture shift in Jamaica, allowing more students to recognise and hone their skills in this area.

“I believe that Jamaica can become a powerhouse in STEM, and, in the same way that we dominate athletics or music, we can also create a space for ourselves in the global arena,” declared Christian.

The Jamaica National (JN) Group is a major sponsor of the conference and Claudine Allen, head of member relations, said the group welcomes the move to boost the development of STEM education in Jamaica.

“At the JN Group we are fully aware of the importance of education, and understand that it must be an important driver in the way forward for us in the Caribbean, to boost our performance and the natural propensity for innovation, as a people,” said Allen.

She noted that in the past the JN Group has contributed to this thrust, through the development and implementation of comprehensive educational programmes, such as the centres of excellence and the iLead school leadership transformation initiatives, targeted to develop under-resourced, rural secondary and primary schools in Jamaica.

“And through the Science Genius Initiative, we also encouraged the use of dancehall and reggae music, to break down the semantics of science for our children,” said Allen.

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