Educating the Girl Child: How to Make STEM Education More Attractive to Girls
[By Mamudou Jallow]
STEM as used in education refers to promoting the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields of learning. Governments the world over have come to the realization that for them to guarantee the advancement of their countries and peoples, STEM education need to be prioritized.
Here in the Gambia and across many countries around the world, the drive to have large number of students pursuing the STEM fields is all but failing. The failure is due to the fact girls are largely left out when encouraging the STEM fields that many “old school” educators and policy makers consider male specialties.
With women accounting for more than half of many countries’ populations, we will never reach the impressive STEM education targets that we’ve tasked ourselves unless and until our young women are also encouraged to embrace all the STEM fields. Without the female participation, the STEM numbers will forever remain low. But how do we get girls and young women to embrace what have largely been known as the dominion of the men?
Making STEM Education Attractive to Girls
The mind is a terrible thing to waste. As such, it is high time we re-orient our thinking or else we will be doomed forever. Notwithstanding the fact that in the olden days African women traditionally filled the role of physicians by handling deliveries, cutting of umbilical cords from babies and generally treating their sick, many Africans today, including women, are more comfortable being attended to by male doctors as opposed to females.
Somehow along the line, we’ve been programmed to doubt the capability of the woman when it comes to the matters of life and death, and for the areas that help advance our societies.
For us to get more girls in the STEM disciplines, we must be confident that given the right training, the woman can perform just like her male counterpart no matter how “hard” the area of study is perceived to be. Doing so will be a real moral boost that will encourage young girls and women to get into STEM education. However, we first need to break the gender stereotypes and we must also change the preferential treatment we show to our male experts over their female counterparts.
#2.Re-inventing Teaching Methods
Getting rid of the old and boring methods that are mostly used in teaching the STEM fields is necessary to win over the female folks. Schools often use outdated methods in teaching STEM subjects and some educators are not motivated enough to experiment with new teaching methods so as to get our young women interested.
In today’s digital age, with all the technological advancements, educators must make use of the tools of the times to help reinvigorate their students, especially female students. For example, the schools that continue to teach Math and Science as if we are in the Stone Age will find little adherents in this day and age. To get the young women on board, there is the need to employ technology to re-energize our classrooms.
#3.Celebrating Females in the STEM fields
In our televisions and in our newspapers; on radio and on social media, we must celebrate and popularize the achievements of all women who have excelled in any of the STEM fields. We must recognize the achievement of trail brazing women in the fields of STEM education so the young females of today will get inspired to get into the area.
We will be far off our targets for STEM education as long as we continue to celebrate mediocrity at the expense of hard work in the areas that have the potential to uplift us as a country and as a people.
In the promotion of STEM education, we must include the critical mass of our population, the women. It is either that or nothing at all!