The first President of the republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, while addressing Parliament on the eve of our independence on March 6,1957, laid out his vision for a new country.
This vision, he indicated, could be realised if we established universities and research institutions for “agriculture, biology and the physical and chemical sciences”.
He further argued that the initiative would prepare the youth to meet any definite situations of the changing community, but not to train them for “clerical activities and occupations of foreign commercial and mercantile concerns”.
Unfortunately, 65 years down the lane, it is emerging that our educational system has largely not served its purpose of educating people to meet the challenges of today.
Instead, it has, by and large, become a manufacturer of graduates equipped only for clerical skills and the humanities- a condition Dr. Nkrumah bemoaned and fought tirelessly against.
The reason for this is the minimal attention to STEM education. STEM education has become increasingly important in policy advocacy across the world. The acronym STEM is an approach to learning and development that integrates the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Over the past four years in Ghana, there has been a progressively rapid focus to STEM education. The Ministry of Education and its associated agencies are putting measures in place to revamp the educational system to accommodate or include a more STEM approach in the various levels of formal education across the country.
We currently live in an era characterized by accelerated technological advancement, innovative solutions to problems we encounter and creative methods of making our world a better place.
Skills developed by students through STEM provide them with foundation to succeed at school and beyond. The promise of STEM education is assuring (as the US, China and South Korea have demonstrated).
Malaysia, for example, was comparatively similar to Ghana in terms of economic status at the time of their independence. However, our current economic status is far from similar.
The World Bank attributed Malaysia’s success story to their ability to transform low technological economy into a manufacturing hub that has become a leading exporter of electrical appliances and parts.
This transformation STEMs from their National Science and Technology initiative in 1986 to promote research and innovation.
STEM education is increasingly recognised as fundamental driver of national development, economic productivity and societal wellbeing in this 21st century. STEM education helps students to have critical and independent thinking skills, become creative and efficient problem solvers. It also empowers them to succeed and adapt to this changing world.
The principle of STEM education is applicable to nearly every job and industry imaginable. In the 21st century, the world of work is undergoing dramatic change, causing significant disruption in the patterns of jobs, and changing the nature of our schooling system and making the young people change their expectation away from settled careers by the previous generations.
STEM education has forged a way to a better future, and any country that does not inculcate this would find themselves lagging behind.
To conclude, unless Ghana as a country aggressively puts in more effort to encourage and enhance the study of STEM, we cannot diversify our economy from our complete reliance on our natural resources to an industrialised ‘higher productivity’.
The writer is with the Public Relations Unit, Ministry of Education, Accra. Writer’s email: email@example.com