The Global Teacher Prize Top 10 finalists at the Global Education and Skills Forum on Saturday.
Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent
DUBAI: Gender imbalance in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects can be redressed by changing family perceptions and encouraging teachers to educate parents on the range of job opportunities available to those who specialise in these subjects.
Global Teacher Prize finalists, past and present, made this observation while discussing why the lack of representation in STEM subjects education exists and what can be done to encourage females to study these subjects at the seventh annual Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF 2019) in Dubai.
At the discussion on ‘Getting girls into STEM’, 2015 Global Teacher Prize finalist Yasmin Noorul Amin explained that the attitude of boys to girls and their learning is a great contributing factor to changing stereotypes and gaining equal balance.
She stressed on the importance of changing family perceptions and highlighted the need for female teachers to be strong examples to male students in order to change their perceptions.
Emma Russo, one of the Top 40 finalists for the prize this year, discussed constantly striving to ease the barriers faced by girls who want to study physics and engineering in higher education.
She said, “I set up ‘Girls in Physics’, where students are encouraged to bring their parents and meet and discuss opportunities with female industry professionals, to spread education because it’s frustrating for me as a physicist and a teacher to see such a low number of women continuing these subjects at university.”
Dr Ken Silburn, a 2017 finalist, said that he supported and encouraged participation from girls and documented them enjoying a huge variety of science related activities.
All three speakers were united in the belief that educating parents on the value of STEM subjects for young women was of the utmost importance and would have a positive effect on redressing the imbalance. They were also agreed that boys needed to be better educated to accept and encourage female participation in what has largely been a male led genre.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministers of Kenya and Ghana spoke about what politicians can do to accelerate education technology (Edtech). They agreed that technology provided a useful platform for discussions and creating dialogue that people might not want to have face to face
The Minister of Education for Ghana, Matthew Opoku Prempeh said that technology was now imperative for learning, but governments have a lot of work to do in order to lessen the “fear factors” of technology.
He called technology “the great leveller” and praised how it allowed students in rural areas the chance to learn remotely. He did however stress the online learning was not to the standard it should be regarding quality assurance.
Kenyan Minister of Education Armina Mohamed said technology was a huge boon considering that the student to teacher ratio was low. She said technology helped strike a balance, but it was important to use the technology already available – and that that technology has set parameters.
She spoke of a programme running in Kenya where students were introduced to tablets from grade one and stressed the importance of using technology to empower students, and make sure they were ready for the 21st century.
On the other hand, Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos stressed on the importance of education saying that education is the antidote to violence, poverty and corruption.
Speaking at a GESF 2019 session ‘Changemaker for peace’, Santos said that the world’s governments must work together with private sector stakeholders to tackle the increasingly dire problems of global warming, plastic pollution and climate change.
He pointed out that with the increasing quality of education, Colombia has been able to raise more of its people from poverty and low income into the middle class. “Women and young people, particularly, are driving change and this is very important for real progress and quality of life,” Santos said.
Colombia under Santos’ helm facilitated education opportunities for indigenous people, putting the responsibility for their education in their own hands. This led to its first indigenous university, located in the southwest of the country. The aim of such indigenous education is the preservation of native peoples by maintaining their culture and traditional practices.