Report shows shortcomings in STEAM education
Ministry of Education and Youth Fayval Williams shakes hands with British High Commissioner to Jamaica Judith Slater, while National Education Trust Executive Director Latoya Harris Ghartey (second left) and British Council Country Director Damion Campbell look on, at the National Steam Education Report Launch at the British High Commission on Thursday. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

A lack of basic level understanding for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education has been identified among 51 per cent of teachers, creating a barrier to effectively educate students in the classrooms.

The data was among several findings revealed in the National STEAM Education Report which was launched by the British Council on Thursday.

The findings were a part of an Education Readiness Assessment desk review in the report, which highlighted gaps in the nation's STEAM education system.

The study was focused on 93 randomly and purposively selected primary and secondary schools located across the seven regions of the Ministry of Education and Youth, to ascertain their attitudes, disposition, and readiness for STEAM education, as well as an assessment of their ICT (information and communication technology) needs.

Only 219 educators from 47 schools responded. Additionally, 70 business enterprises were purposively selected for industry growth needs assessment surveys.

"The desk research revealed that the implementation of an effective STEM programme faces several challenges. Some challenges were common across countries that sought to implement a STEAM education programme. Among these challenges were additional preparation time for teachers, the need for additional resources, inventory storage, and institutional readiness," the report said.

"Additionally, teachers struggled to find real-life contexts for abstract topics in mathematics and other subjects. Insufficient comprehension of STEM concepts, limitation of time provided to carry out STEAM projects, lack of funding, and the lack of facilities and resources were also reported as major obstacles," the report said.

The report also showed that despite the lack of understanding of STEAM education, more than 85 per cent of the respondents reported being satisfied with the training received

According to British High Commissioner to Jamaica Judith Slater, STEAM education is more relevant and necessary to help understand the rapidly changing global challenges, ranging from climate change, food security, health and renewable energies.

"The UK will continue to contribute to the advancement of education in Jamaica through our various areas of work that supports the government's plan to build a more inclusive and high-quality education system for young people and teachers," she said during the report launch.

Meanwhile, associate dean of external engagement at the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies, Mona Dr Andre Coy said the findings suggest that there is a need for a STEAM ecosystem.

"We have no lack of the resources here in Jamaica. We have no lack of the training capacities, we have no lack of brilliant children who are able to take us where we need to go, we do not have coordination. The major recommendation of this report is that we develop this ecosystem," said Coy.

"We have to have to have a strong community based STEAM ecosystem where you have children not only seeing STEAM and hearing about STEAM on television, in schools or classrooms but actually being able to do hands on projects," he added.

Other findings showed that approximately 40 per cent of employed ICT lab technicians were either self-trained or untrained, which suggested that technical support was not assured. Additionally, only 30 per cent of the teachers were deemed trained and competent in the use of ICT resources, while 46 per cent were considered competent but not formally trained.

In reporting the current ICT infrastructure, 86.6 per cent were deemed inadequate or obsolete. Specific technologies were also seen as primarily inadequate, obsolete, or non-existent.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter

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