What is STEM?
STEM is the short form of four subject names: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This is a specialized subject focus in education particularly in the secondary and higher secondary level so that the student can choose a right track in their tertiary education. There is no specific education called STEM education, which is separate from the mainstream education in a country. In the secondary and higher secondary level education of Bangladesh, Science and Mathematics are two subjects with these same specific names. But, we do not have subjects named exactly Technology or Engineering though we have Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Engineering and Industrial Drawing. Do we need to introduce new subjects or give emphasis on specific subjects by undermining other subjects? Not exactly. STEM education is more of achieving skills in the subject areas that are demand of time than a new set of education system.
Bangladesh is struggling to attract students in STEM field of study in secondary and higher secondary level. Table 1 shows that the number of students in science group for both SSC and HSC levels is decreasing by years, which is already taken into account by the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Education Sector Review, done by the World Bank reports secondary education in Bangladesh is streamed meaning that two third of students are channelled into non-science streams as early as class IX and those who continue to higher education with science have not been well prepared in terms of thinking and analytical skills. This study was conducted to describe how the students’ results change from traditional approach to the modern approach of teaching. Through a research article published in 2006 Professor Lutfuzzaman et. al. stated that the main reason of students’ reluctance on science education is Mathematics. It is primarily perceived and partially evident by the students and teachers that Mathematics is a hard subject to get a good grade. Mathematics is a leading subject in the study stream of Bangladesh called Science group, which has to be good to students by their performances and results. The Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) administered a rigorous research for its periodical Education Watch 2007. The results of this report show that the students performed lowest in Mathematics comparing to other three subjects; General Science, Bengali and English. Students also found Mathematics as the most difficult subject followed by English.
Table 1: Trend of number of examinees in National Exams
|Students in Science Group|
Shafiqur M. Rahman, Professor of physics at the Allegheny College, USA, wrote in his article “Adapting New Pedagogical Methods for Learning Science: An Opportunity for Bangladesh in the New Millennium” that quick implementations of at least some elements of new pedagogical methods would improve the science education and propel the country to a better position relative to other countries of the world. An appropriate teaching method can make learners competent in mathematics by gaining essential skills in the field of STEM for the 21st century.
The world’s job market is changing. Bangladesh needs to achieve SDG by 2030 and become a middle income country by 2041. It is only possible by creating appropriate human resources that are in need in the local and global job markets. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor, as in Table 2, there will be huge positive growth in the jobs related to STEM field during the period from 2012 to 2022.
Table 2: World’s Job Market Growth related to STEM field
|STEM Job Market Growth: 2012-2022|
|Projected by the U.S. Department of Labor|
|Computer and Mathematical||18.0%|
|Mathematical and Science||26.0%|
|Architectural and Engineering||7.3%|
|Life, Physical and Social Science||10.0%|
[Source: The State University of New York]
Bangladesh can become a source of skilled resources by patronizing the STEM areas in her Education. ICT has been already introduced as a compulsory subject in both secondary and higher secondary education. This is a good initiative. The Government has also recognized importance of effective teaching in Mathematics and English that are reflected in the latest National Education Policy 2010. Now it is time to adopt the idea along with all of its implementers including our respected teachers and management bodies of educational institutions.