Girls in STEM
In honor of Mother's Day, our Social Media Coordinators, Coaches Bertha Mwelwa and Anthony Phiri, discuss girls in STEM education & employment
"The Edulution Learning Platform attempts to advance equality in
education & the STEM field so that all children can pursue
their dreams, no matter the barriers they may encounter"
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, widely known as STEM, is an educational umbrella used to group together distinct but related technical disciplines of science. A STEM programme has been operating in Zambian schools since 1996 to foster human capital and national development.
STEM learning incorporates a hands-on approach to education, enhancing students problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The government hopes that teaching STEM at a young age can help encourage a future generation to pursue a career in this field. While women should make up half of the workforce, only 27% of all STEM employees were women in 2019.
STEM jobs are considered the future of Zambia’s economy, and employment in this field is expected to grow by 8.8% by 2028. The healthcare workforce is projected to grow further still. Women should be at the centre of this economic expansion for a more equal society.
STEM is unique because it can redefine how students perceive failure. STEM methodology can reframe failure as a learning opportunity. It is a naturally exploratory field, so students can try many different options when solving problems, allowing them to build their creativity and problem-solving skills. This kind of mindset helps Learners build confidence and stand stronger in the face of failure or stress, and be adaptable with their ideas to find alternative solutions. Building this tenacity and confidence in girls will have a cumulative effect for future generations.
Encouraging girls to engage in STEM subjects will not only prepare them for a career in this discipline, but an emphasis in logical thought processing and problem-solving will allow girls to develop positive mental habits that can aid success across many fields. We see this in evaluations of the Edulution model; students enrolled on the Edulution Programme perform better not only in maths but in many other subjects as well.
STEM is a historically male-dominated field, and it starts from an early age. In the classroom, traditionally boys were taught ‘hard’ subjects such as STEM, while girls were taught more ‘soft’ ones to prepare them for familial roles. Breaking down these stereotypes and inequalities should be the priority of all countries to invest in a future where opportunities are no longer determined by gender.
There are certainly challenges in implementing STEM education at the heart of the curriculum. For example, even the concept of STEM itself can have many variations, and so being consistent with which areas to prioritise is contested. Furthermore, teachers and educators are careful not to create STEM programmes that exist at the expense of other subjects, like the humanities or arts. Additionally, sometimes teachers can lack the training to be able to provide the lessons or lack the resources in order to do so. Increased investment in the education sector and initiatives like Edulution that provide students with the support, technology and resources in order to succeed is vital.
With social enterprises such as Edulution, young girls can create their own space as innovators within STEM fields. They can act as catalysts for future change and development - creating a talented and diverse workforce that benefits everyone.