More girls are in school today than ever before. Unfortunately, they do not have the same opportunities as boys to complete and benefit from an education of their choice. So many girls are held back by biases, social norms, and expectations influencing the quality of the education they receive and the subjects they study. They are particularly underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. They are always more interested in the Arts, Humanities and Health Sciences.
But we cannot afford to live in a world where scientific and technological solutions are desperately needed and exclude girls and women who made up at least half of the world’s population and talent. We need girls and women as much as we need boys and men. All students regardless of sex should have adequate opportunities to explore STEM throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Girls can contribute to development through careers in STEM areas and we must make it happen. But How?
There are many ways through which the girl child’s interest in STEM education can be enhanced. Some of these are:
- Exposing Girls to STEAM at an early stage
- Encourage Women Participation in STEAM Related Workshops and Seminars
- Sponsorship of STEAM Activities by Companies, Organizations and NGOs
- Involving Women in Curriculum Planning and Policy Development
- Involve Women as Facilitators at Workshops, Seminars and Summer Camps
- Creating More Awareness
- Encourage Women to Engage in International and National Collaborative Scientific Research
Let’s discuss these in detail.
Expose Young Girls to STEM at an Early Stage
There is no doubt that girls can excel at STEM areas such as Robotics, Coding, ICT, Programming, Web Design and the like but first we need to develop their interest in it. Correcting the negative perceptions that girls develop at a young age can lead them to embrace STEM when they reach secondary school. At Jofegan International School, we introduce STEAM to our pupils and students from age 3 (Nursery 1). This is done all through Primary and Junior Secondary schools. That is, STEAM is introduced not only to one age group but across the board. By so doing, girls working on the same activities with boys will gradually erode the biases against the girl child in STEAM areas.
Encourage Women Participation in STEAM Related Workshops and Seminars
One of the ways by which girls can be encouraged to take interest in STEM careers is to encourage them to attend workshops on the area. Participating in such workshops will foster interaction between girls from different areas and backgrounds. Girls only workshop will be the best option. The workshops will expose opportunities in STEAM areas that girls can grab. If girls see other women that have achieved in the STEM Careers speak about their experiences and how they make it, they will be encouraged. Going into syndicate groups in such workshops and involving in exercises/activities will go a long way in raising the girl child’s curiosity in STEAM careers. In the same vein, women in STEAM can be encouraged to engage in international and national collaborative scientific research, particularly with more advanced countries.
Sponsorship of STEAM Activities by Companies, Organizations and NGOs
To develop the interest of girls in STEM, Organizations especially Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) must be willing to sponsor girls for STEM programs. Girls can be sponsored to workshops and seminars. Due to the economic situation of the country, sponsorship will encourage many girls to attend such programs.
Another area where organizations can easily come in is in the sponsorship of girls to STEAM Summer Camps during long vacations. Girls only Summer Boot programs can be sponsored in the area of Robotics, Coding, Programming, Web Design, and the like. By so doing, the interest of girls can be developed in these areas early in life.
Involving Women in Curriculum Planning and Policy Development
Because men dominate the Science and Technology fields, they also invariably develop the curriculum in these areas, especially in developing countries. There is no gender touch in curriculum development. Involving women will encourage younger girls to take into STEAM areas as they will see the developers of curriculum as people they will and can look up to in the future.
Involve Women as Facilitators at Workshops, Seminars and Summer Camps
Another area where girls can be encouraged to develop an interest in STEAM areas is to get women actively involved as facilitators at workshops and seminars. Women Trainers should also be involved as coordinators of STEAM clubs in schools and as facilitators at Summer Camps. Such women can share their stories and that of others and how women have contributed to the world of science and technology. By learning about women who have persevered and succeeded in STEAM, girls can debunk gender stereotypes that hold them back. By also seeing women actively involved in this manner will enable young girls to choose them as role models and/or mentors early in life.
Mentors are trusted confidants who share wisdom, support and knowledge over an extended period. Working with a mentee, they can offer tips and advice that help their protégés avoid mistakes. Mentors in STEAM areas can bring their individual skill sets and experience to the table in the quest to get and keep more girls interested in technical fields.
Mentorship can open girls up to new opportunities they may not have had access to. They can also help keep more of them interested in Science and Technical Education and the related career opportunities.
Creating More Awareness
The government as a deliberate policy can get its agencies involved in creating awareness in girls’ involvement in STEAM areas. This can be done in Nigeria through the National Orientation Agency, Television and Radio stations, and in the print media. In the same vein, the girls can be met where they really can be found: The Social Media. The use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, amongst other social media channels, can go a long way in generating interest for the girl child in science and technology fields.
Encourage Women to Engage in International and National Collaborative Scientific Research
Women in STEAM areas should be encouraged to be involved in collaborative research both at the National and International level; especially with the developed world. By so doing, they will be exposed to new developments in the field and be well-armed to share these with the younger ones either as mentors, facilitators or trainers.
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