Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Grace McLean | $100m earmarked for STEM academies

Published:Wednesday | November 9, 2016 | 11:00 AM
Grace McLean

Reference is made to the article 'STEM academy leaders out in cold' in your November 7, 2016 edition.

Contrary to the assertions in the article, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programme in schools remains one of high priority for the Ministry of Education,Youth and Information. The pertinent facts are set out below.

The STEM initiative, which was started formally within the ministry in May 2014, has continued under the new administration.

The ministry has established a STEM Steering Committee to provide oversight to the work of the STEM team, as well as the STEM technical committee that is driving the research and training component of the initiative. Meetings of both committees are being held consistently.

Since the new administration, the following has been done:

1. One steering committee meeting held in September 2016.

2. New members invited to join the STEM Committee.

3. Initial discussions to launch the STEM Ambassador Association of Jamaica (SAAJ). [This is a private body led by Dr Richard Aiken, who will be partnering with the ministry.]

4. Just over $100 million has been budgeted to fund STEM and non-STEM schools for the procurement of STEM-related equipment and material.

5. The industry-led members are still part of the STEM initiative. We are now at the point where a meeting is being planned with the five of the 10 schools selected management committees to update them on what has been done to date and to obtain their recommitment for the way forward.

6. A new STEM coordinator has been appointed.

The following tasks have been undertaken and are either complete or near completion.

1. A STEM concept paper has been completed and ratified by the STEM steering committee.

2. Work on a list of criteria for certification of STEM institutions for the academic year started in 2016 and is now 90 per cent complete.

 

ENHANCEMENTS

 

3. The Sydney Pagon Agricultural School is being transformed into a STEM Academy. This was initiated in September 2014 with some 100 students at grade seven and approximately $20 million has been spent on infrastructure to include upgrading of classrooms and laboratories. Equipment and material for the science programme are being provided to enhance the project-based learning in accordance with STEM methodology. Recruitment of additional staff was done and extensive training of the academic and other staff members done to build their capacity. Construction is currently being planned for additional space and training is being planned to commence this month.

4. Ten institutions are being transformed into STEM academies as indicated below:

- St Andrew High - logistics and transportation.

- Kingston Technical High School - construction and infrastructure.

- Dunoon Technical High School - telecommunication, cable, and media.

- Vere Technical High School - agriculture and engineering.

- Dinthill Technical High School - livestock and small ruminant farming.

- St Mary Technical High School agronomy, farm management and food processing.

- Herbert Morrison Technical High - ICT and BPO.

- Manchester High School - ICT and agro-processing.

- Belmont Academy - ICT and BPO.

- Sydney Pagon - agriculture and agro-processing.

5. There is an ongoing engagement of industry partners with the aim of providing support for the initiative to include financial support. In this regard, a STEM symposium is planned for the second quarter of 2017. Committees have been established and are working to ensure that the objectives are achieved.

6. The integration of the STEM methodology into the curriculum for grades one to nine is the ministry's target and is being implemented under the National Standards Curriculum (NSC).

7. Finalisation of the core subjects for grade seven to nine at a STEM academy has been completed and was ratified by the STEM steering committee.

8. Training coordinated by the ministry was done for teachers from the selected schools in educational Regions One and Five. Other regions will be done in this quarter. This was to sensitise and train them with respect to the integration of the STEM methodology within the education system.

9. Training has also been done with principals and vice-principals of schools with respect to the revised curriculum that integrates the STEM methodology.

10. Partnerships have been built with a team from UTech led by Dr Shermaine Barrett. This engagement has been very productive so far and they are willing to partner with us to offer training for selected schools in order to build their capacity.

11. There are also plans to foster a partnership with other tertiary institution such as UWI, teachers' colleges, Northern Caribbean University and the HEART Trust/NTA.

Several initiatives are already in train to move the STEM project forward. Clearly there is no intention to "sideline" anyone. A series of meetings with stakeholders are being scheduled for the third week in November.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information remains open to further dialogue on this matter.

- Grace McLean is chief education officer. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.