Designing STEM programmes in education
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Ministry of Education and business leaders gathered this week at The Jamaica Pegasus to discuss the feasibility of a different approach to secondary education, intended to make graduates more immediately useful, and able to add value to the world of work.
The minister of education, the Rev Ronald Thwaites, in an unusually adventurous flight of thought, posited the possibility that we are approaching education for work readiness the wrong way round, and that a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) would provide better congruence with workforce needs.
I would like to assure the minister that what is deemed revolutionary by him and other representatives of the Establishment is commonplace in the thinking of small-business people who live on the edge, for persons with many children, who have very limited resources, persons who have spent time in incarceration, and for those with impossible utility bills. They have been waiting for this new approach for a long time. They are dying to see the word made flesh and the training actually begin.
Delivering instruction in this new paradigm is going to be a challenge to the teacher-training establishment and to the teachers who consider themselves already trained. While the implications of funding the new approach with its expanded equipment and resource needs is understood at least by the business community, retraining of the teaching staff is a trickier proposition.
In recent years, none of Jamaica's principal tertiary institutions has distinguished itself by having a particularly successful training programme that could be emulated; and the Ministry of Education itself has lost the art of doing effective in-service training. The needs are simple, but more often than not, how to meet them escapes us:
Objectively, training hours have to be spent more efficiently - more engagement with the task at hand and fewer protocol preliminaries, intrusive photo ops, and generally better time management by presenters and participants.
Far more specific attention needs to be paid to the logistics of venues, travelling, accommodation, purveyance and delivery of food so that more accurate costs can be determined and prepared for.
More objectivity is needed in the selection of presenters, in the willingness to remunerate them properly, in the acceptance of able local talent as against prepackaged foreign intervention.
Training content must objectively be able to achieve the stated/desired result, utilising appropriate media. This last is, unfortunately, the most often overlooked.