Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Twenty-three years ago, Georgia committed itself to the goal of removing all discrimination against women. This pledge occurred at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, where the involved nations signed an international convention that called on each country to create an action plan.

While social norms continue to reinforce a gender divide that undermines girls’ education in Georgia, a lot has changed since the momentous convention. Here are seven things to know about girls’ education in Georgia.

7 Important Facts About Girls’ Education in Georgia

  1. Georgian girls outperform boys in reading, mathematics and science. Indeed, the average mathematics score for 4th-grade girls was seven percent more than that for boys; in addition, the average science scores favored 4th-grade girls by nine percent.
  2. The graduation rate from upper secondary schools in 2012-2013 was 74.4 percent for females, compared to 68.8 percent for males. In those same years, 91.2 percent of all females transitioned from lower secondary to upper secondary schools, compared to 85.8 percent of males. The dropout and repeat rates, on the other hand, were the same for both girls and boys, with a dropout rate of 0.2 percent and a repeat rate of 0.1 percent in grade three.
  3. Despite their academic achievements, Georgian girls are underrepresented in STEM and entrepreneurial occupations. In fact, 58 percent of all respondents to a research report by the U.N. Development Program saying that a man would make a better business leader. According to the World Bank, Georgian girls are brought up to believe that STEM careers are more suitable for men; young Georgian women overwhelmingly major in arts, education and healthcare. Men, on the other hand, tend to major in high-wage sectors like engineering and manufacturing. Organizations like the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Girls Up are stepping up to fill in the gap in Georgian girls’ STEM education. Since 2015, MCC has arranged exchange programs between Georgian and American students, placing a special emphasis on women participation and allowing Georgians to earn reputable STEM degrees. The global initiative Girls Up has organized a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design and Mathematics camp to help girls realize their leadership potential and explore new disciplines.
  4. In some cases, early marriages have prevented teenage girls from completing their education. In 2015 alone, 224 girls aged 14 – 16 left school on the grounds of marriage. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that 17 percent of Georgian women married before the age of 18. Recognizing that early marriage carries adverse effects for girls’ education in Georgia, the Georgian Parliament ruled in a law passed on January 1, 2017 that only individuals who have reached the age of 18 are legally allowed to marry.
  5. Girls from ethnic minorities — Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Russians, Ossetians — are more likely to drop out of school. In an effort to engage these ethnic minorities with the school curriculum, Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science has supported bilingual education programs and professional development for teachers residing in ethnic enclaves. In 2014, the Ministry awarded certificates to 80 teachers for their completion of the “Teach Georgian as a Second Language” program, which offered professional development for educators in non-Georgian schools.
  6. While Georgian girls are more likely than boys to enroll in tertiary education, educated women make up the largest category of underemployed women. Once employed, these women face a 37 percent earnings gap with their male counterparts. Diminishing this gap will incentivize more girls to pursue higher education. The Law on Gender Equality — passed on January 1, 2014 — sought to do just that by raising paid maternity leave from 126 to 183 calendar days.
  7. U.N. bodies have collaborated with Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science to foster gender equality at school. The U.N. Women initiative, which took root in Georgia in 2001, supports girls’ education in Georgia by hosting training sessions for women interested in entrepreneurial careers. On July 25, 2018, a U.N. Women training on organizational management and leadership brought together 25 aspiring women entrepreneurs. Likewise, the Peace Corps sent 114 volunteers to Georgia to assist with English education in geographically remote areas of Georgia. After being assigned to a public school, volunteers work with teachers to organize after-school English clubs and teacher workshops in regional centers.

Increased Opportunities

With more national awareness and international assistance, Georgia has worked to promote educational opportunities for girls. Laws like the ban on early marriages help keep girls in school for longer and further their career goals.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Fiji
Fiji is currently in the midst of altering their education system to better incorporate girls and empower them to lead more fulfilling lives. About 83 percent of students in Fiji — both male and female — complete their compulsory education; however, it has been found that girls’ education in Fiji lacks STEM subjects and menstrual health.

Fijian Culture and Views About Women

The culture of Fiji has remained traditional, and until the early 2000s, still viewed its women as inferior to its men. The World Bank reported that in 2012, young girls — although educated — were often domesticized directly after completing their compulsory education.

It was noted in the same World Bank report that boys are more likely to focus their attention on making money, while girls are expected to live almost solely within the home. As of 2016, 41 percent of women and 76 percent of men work in the labor force of the Fiji Islands.

To change the outcome of girls’ future, the Fiji government is encouraging young girls to engage more with nontraditional, ‘non-female’ education tracks like math, physics and science. Leadership works to accomplish such prioritization through altering education systems to index young girls’ early education towards these STEM subjects. However, the World Bank found that in 2013, only 3.88 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on education.

Changing the STEM Status Quo

Nevertheless, Fiji’s government has promised to alter its education budget so that primary and secondary education facilities throughout Fiji receive proper funding for STEM subjects. The purpose of pushing these subjects is to encourage young girls (and later women) of Fiji to pursue careers in technological, mathematical and scientific fields, which have historically been dominated by men.

This gender disparity in STEM fields can be seen at the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF), an organization formed by the Fiji government to provide a sustainable and effective water system for the country. As of 2017, only four percent of the engineering and technical staff and about 25 percent of the entire staff of WAF are female.

This gender imbalance at WAF can be traced back to gender stereotypes that dominate much of Fiji’s culture, and discourage women from entering male-dominated fields.

Finding Empowerment Through Education

To combat much of the traditional gender segregation embedded in the mindset of Fiji’s society, The World Bank suggests that Fiji begin to teach courses on gender, like the empowerment of women, in schools.

Fiji also has struggled to teach young girls about menstrual health and hygiene due to shaming. Fiji’s education board classifies menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue and therefore does not educate male students about the subject. This separation has created a divide in education amongst the students and thus the society.

Moreover, labeling menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue has made the subject taboo for men in Fiji. This restriction often translates to the shaming women for their education of the topic. UNICEF’s menstrual health and hygiene assessment found that the number one reason girls are dissuaded from continuing with education in menstrual health is that of the taunting they receive from their male counterparts.

Female Under-Representation in Leadership

As a result of the inadequate girls’ education in Fiji, there remains a major under-representation of women in senior positions of power — in parliament, managerial roles, deans of education and many others. The Human Rights Commission found that in 2016, only 16 percent of Fiji’s parliament was made up of women.

Moreover, as of 2004, only five percent of directors of publicly listed companies were women, 14 percent of legal partnerships were held by women, and about 15 percent of professors and associate professors at universities in New Zealand were female.

Much of the inconsistencies amongst genders comes from the cultural norms of New Zealand. The norm of New Zealand is that the woman cares for the home and the children, while the man works. As a country, New Zealand has struggled to shake the idea of the “domestic woman” and the “working man” from its public perception. Consequently, women’s jobs, girls’ education and overall female opportunities have suffered.

Attaining Equality for Girls’ Education in Fiji

Fiji has strived for equality and has recognized that their major setbacks — particularly in girls’ education — are hindering them from reaching such a goal. These setbacks are large and are deeply rooted in the cultural norms of the country.

Nevertheless, the fight for girls’ education in Fiji has remained firm in ensuring that the government’s promise — to provide female students with equal opportunities — is pushed through to completion. It remains to be seen, however, how Fiji’s government will further drive the equality agenda, and how much of a priority equal education will continue to be.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

Apple and the Malala Fund Working to Bring Education to Girls in Brazil
Founded in 2013, The Malala Fund has taken many steps towards improving education for girls across the globe. To do this, members of the initiative have invested time in local education, advocated for policy changes and an increase in resources and by providing a voice through their own publications and newsletters. As it is now, The Malala Fund has made substantial progress in Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and Afghanistan. More recently, they have made movements towards ensuring approximately 12 years of education reaches girls in Brazil.

According to CNN, Brazil has the eighth largest economy in the world, but despite this, millions of girls are still denied access to education. Reasons that are perhaps correlated with this are poverty, which often results in exploitation, under-representation in government and unequal wages due to discrimination against gender and/or race. Another potential factor contributing to low education is safety concerns since rates for sexual abuse against girls are high. In 2015, 6,706 of 17,871 registered cases of sexual assault against women were attacks on children between the ages of zero and 12.

Apple Teams Up With The Malala Fund

The goal of The Malala Fund is to reach more than 100,000 girls and provide them with the necessary materials they need to become leaders and educators in their region. To make this possible, Apple and The Malala Fund has teamed up together to bring education to girls in Brazil.

Apple and The Malala Fund’s partnership mainly involves on providing financial resources to The Gulmakai Network, a group of “champions” in developing countries that work to speed up the process of ensuring every girl gets an education. Particularly in Brazil, the Gulmakai champions are tasked with not only making sure girls can access education but also educating teachers on discrimination and training young women to be more vocal about their rights.

Technology Used To Improve Education

Apple will be assisting in the form of technology, curriculum, research and grants that will be available to local advocates. Perhaps playing the biggest role is the Apple Developer Academy. The Apple Developer Academy program in Brazil is currently educating students by connecting them to other locations globally and mobilizing them to ensure that they are developing products that are useful.

Now, through this partnership, current students will be learning and using their skills in Swift (Apple’s programming language), graphics, and many more to tackle the education problem in Brazil. Specifically, students in these academies have been tasked with designing and developing apps with the purpose of enhancing the overall experience of obtaining an education. They are also encouraged to develop means of safe, secure communication for the Gulmakai champions as they empower girls and advocate.

With the help of Apple, its academy students and alumni, The Malala Fund hopes that every girl will be able to choose her own future and follow her own path whether it be to become a business tycoon, a dancer, an educator etc. Apple and The Malala Fund hope that they can successfully present this golden opportunity to girls in the safest way possible at the highest quality, so they don’t have to live in fear like so many others.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mongolia
From a single party rule to a multi-party democracy, Mongolia has sought to accommodate more of its people’s demands, particularly in the advancement of girls’ education.

In 2000, the average time spent by girls in school was 9.4 years, but by 2010, it had increased to 14.6 years. The government’s effort in funding the development of more rural classrooms and educational resources has been inspired by the hope of reducing the high rate of teen pregnancies, as about a third of the population lives in rural areas that lack access to reproductive healthcare and education.

Improving Girls’ Education in Mongolia to Spur Economic Growth

As with decreasing global poverty, decreasing discrimination against women is also an investment in accelerating economic growth. The United Nations Development Programme, along with its U.N. partners, has worked towards closing gender disparities, such as in primary education. Approximately a third of Mongolia’s labor force consists of livestock herders, but higher access to education has increased young girls’ opportunities to seek jobs in other sectors.

These efforts have been fruitful: the number of women working in non-agricultural sectors has increased from 35 percent in 1990 to 41 percent today. As reported in 2014 by the World Bank, women own or partially own almost 40 percent of Mongolian firms.

 The State of Progress in Girls’ Education  in Mongolian

Although Mongolia can now boast of its position at 53 out of 159 countries in gender inequality globally, the gender disparities in the workforce still run particularly deep, as exhibited through women’s limited access to economic opportunities, unequal salaries, and their higher rate of inclination towards unreliable, informal work away from entrepreneurial sectors. The full benefits of the progress made in girls’ education in Mongolia have been limited by such inequalities.

To maximize the advantages of increasing girls’ education in Mongolia, other factors that commonly require a woman’s time and attention should be considered. Females are traditionally assigned the role of nurturing family; therefore, increasing construction of more eldercare and childcare facilities would provide more girls the chance to prioritize their education or job. More access to early-childhood education will also yield the same empowering effect for women, especially those living in rural towns.

Teenage fertility is especially high in Mongolia, at 40.4 childbirths for every 1000 girls between the ages of 15 to 19. Unwanted pregnancies are also relatively high in this age range as 14.1 percent of pregnant girls have abortions. These factors, left often unattended, limit the educational opportunities that girls can now seek.

Location also plays a huge role in determining the level of access to education for young girls. About 55 percent of students achieve secondary education, but this holds true for only 45 percent of students in rural areas. Children from rural areas must often confront inhibitions to accessing education, such as seasonal challenges and poor infrastructure.

Support of Girls’ Educational Opportunities in the Sciences

In 2010 the Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation, partnered with The Asian Foundation and the Zorig Foundation, introduced a university scholarship program for Mongolian girls that would pay for four years at the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian University of Science and Technology for 60 girls from low-income families. This program is geared towards providing girls with opportunities in the sciences since Mongolian girls are largely underrepresented in those fields.

Even though more than 60 percent of university students are female, there remains a large discrepancy in the number of men and women in the sectors related to science and technology. By focusing on improving education for girls in this subject, Mongolia is expanding its labor force to fields beyond agriculture, which has consistently faced major setbacks due to natural disasters.

In 2010, Mongolia suffered a dzud, which is a national disaster of a drought in the summer followed by a severe winter, and lost almost 20 percent of the nation’s herds. One-third of Mongolia, whose livelihoods rely on herding, could no longer afford university tuition for their children, so this scholarship program would succeed in providing an education for specifically poor, rural girls.

The country is currently focused on its development through its minerals sector. Major infrastructure projects in developing mines are underway, and skilled workers are in high demand. Investing in girls’ education, so that more girls may access a job in this sector, is also an investment in Mongolia’s economic development as the country gravitates towards a more stable means of income.

By accounting for these factors in improving gender parity, developments in areas such as location and rethinking traditional gender norms and attitudes, Mongolia can improve education for girls and yield more long-term sustainable change. As women are more likely to pursue tertiary education, Mongolia will only benefit from addressing these different factors in helping women achieve educational success, and subsequently, inclusion in sectors significant to Mongolia’s economic prosperity. The butterfly effect of these developments in empowering women will continue to ripple throughout Mongolia’s poverty-reducing progress.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

Education in Bangladesh
On May 26, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made an impassioned speech at the convocation of Kazi Nazrul University. She addressed education in Bangladesh and it’s ongoing struggle to eradicate extreme poverty, claiming “to get rid of poverty, education should be of the utmost importance.”

Playing a Role in Poverty

There is evidence to back up Hasina’s statement that education in Bangladesh plays a crucial role in the welfare of the economy. According to the Global Campaign for Education, the average individual’s income increases by 10 percent for each year of schooling they complete. A study by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Institute of Statistics even found that if every adult attained a full primary and secondary education, the number of people living in poverty worldwide would be less than half of what it is today.

Why such a strong correlation between poverty and education? The simplest answer is when someone is well-educated, they have more skills (or can learn skills more easily) that can be used in the workforce. This makes them more likely to be employed and have a steady income.

But there are less obvious reasons explaining how enhancing education in Bangladesh may help its citizens escape poverty. Studies show the more education a woman receives, the fewer children she is likely to have. This means she won’t have to spend as much to provide for her family. If this trend continues on a large scale then the population will decline, resulting in more employment opportunities and less strain on resources.

Education in Bangladesh

Bangladesh currently ranks 128th in global literacy with 72.8 percent of its population aged 15 or older being literate, compared to the 86 percent average worldwide. The most recent data shows 24 percent of people aged 15-24 in Bangladesh have not completed primary education and 44 percent have not completed secondary education.

Women Empowerment

In 2010, the government implemented a new national education policy focusing on gender equality in education in Bangladesh. Some of the measures included greater allocation of funds specifically toward women’s education, stipends for underprivileged women who wish to pursue higher education and a reformation of the cultural attitude toward women in school and the workplace. This is an issue Hasina has been outspoken about, stating that proper education is necessary in order to empower women.

The 2010 national education policy also pushed for students to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology. These fields are of the highest importance in today’s fast-paced world, and educating students about them in school means they will be better prepared for the tech-driven workforce. In this way, Bangladesh hopes to stay ahead of the curve, unlike many other African nations still relying on agriculture as their economic foundation.

The World Bank reports that nearly 25 percent of Bangladeshis are currently living at or below the poverty line (surviving on $1.90 per day). Steps still need to be taken to lift the Bangladeshi people out of this struggle. But the Hasini administration has the right idea about how to help, and if there is a strong enough push for education in Bangladesh, it just might be on the road to eradicating extreme poverty.

– Maddi Roy

Girls' Education in ThailandGirls’ education in Thailand has seen numerous and ongoing efforts from the government, nonprofits and local organizations. There are a variety of programs in the country, across different organizations, that are currently working toward reducing gender discrimination and providing equal access to education.

School Enrollment Rates

For the most part, Thailand does not have disparities in school enrollment rates for boys and girls. The 1999 National Act promises education for all Thai children, and in 2005 that right was extended to all children living in the country regardless of nationality. Currently, elementary and secondary school enrollment is almost equal0 for both genders. In fact, girls have overtaken boys in secondary and tertiary education enrollment. This indicates that past efforts to create equal access to education have been successful. However, this does not mean girls do not face other forms of discrimination in education.

Girls’ Education in STEM Fields

According to the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., girls face discrimination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields from as early as primary school. This discrimination then continues through higher education and into employment. Additionally, a report published in 2015 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) indicated that this discrimination came in the form of gender stereotypes and a lack of female role models in STEM.

Girls’ Education and Nonprofit Organizations

In 2017, the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Subregion (DEPDC) received the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education. DEPDC is a local organization in Thailand and they received the award for their projects that aim to reduce exploitation of migrant children and women. The program uses education and other skills training to prevent human trafficking and other kinds of exploitation. However, DEPDC is just one example of an organization focusing on girls’ education in Thailand.

Another such organization is Angel Covers that runs the Girls Advocacy Through Education (GATE) program. GATE focuses on girls in rural, northwest Thailand where families often cannot afford to send their daughters to school. Similar to DEPDC, this organization recognizes the potential of education in reducing human trafficking. GATE provides these children with school materials, lunches, transportation costs and more.

Finally, the government and nonprofits also work to improve girls’ education in Thailand. In April 2018, the Ministry of Education announced that it would be partnering with the United Nations to promote girls’ involvement in STEM education. This is a part of a 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0, which hopes to increase development in the country. Thailand is the first country in the region to adopt a “policy toolkit” from the United Nations for gender equality in STEM.

Future of Girls’ Education in Thailand

To conclude, girls in Thailand do have equal access to education but there are often other obstacles in their way. Girls who do not attend school are at a higher risk of being human trafficked — organizations like DEPDC and Angel Covers focus on this aspect of girls’ education. Additionally, girls face much discrimination in male-dominated STEM fields, which the government recently pledged to address. While Thailand has seen many improvements in girls’ education, there is still work to be done. With continued commitment from the government and other organizations, Thailand will be on its way to achieving true gender equality in education.

– Liyanga de Silva
Photo: Pixabay

STEM Education

Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have been coming in a distant second to their male counterparts for the entirety of STEM’s history.

Since Marie Curie was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1903, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine. This number is drastically lower than the 572 men who have won Nobel Prizes in that time.

Additionally, only 28 percent of researchers worldwide are women. This immense gender gap has motivated people across the world to alleviate the adversity women continue to face in the STEM world.

Among these is Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, who has recognized that many countries hold girls back at a young age due to discrimination, biases and social norms and expectations.

Because girls are turned away from the quality STEM education that boys have access to, girls tend to lose interest in these subjects between early and late adolescence.

At the Cracking the Code: Girls’ Education in STEM conference in Bangkok from August 28-30, officials discussed this gender gap and the ways it can be improved.

Currently, only 35 percent of college students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female, which is undoubtedly low because of the lack of STEM opportunities for girls throughout primary and secondary school.

Progress has been made in some countries, known as “model countries”, that are fighting this gender gap. Malaysia has partnered with UNESCO to achieve gender parity, which has led to 57 percent of degrees in science-related fields being held by women.

Malaysia and UNESCO are working in the global south and several African countries to improve STEM education opportunities for girls. Schools across the globe are being encouraged to pay more attention to female students and provide curriculum and other learning materials that stray from the stereotypical masculinity of sciences.

Support for girls pursuing a STEM education starts at home. Family biases and gender norms are a big contributor to the low number of females in STEM-related fields.

Thus, it is increasingly important for families to encourage young girls to join science and math-related activities and clubs outside of the classroom. Science and math clubs, competitions and camps are a great source of empowerment for girls in STEM education.

While UNESCO and model countries are working to eliminate the gender gap in STEM, it takes the support of educators and role models globally to change the fate of female students.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr



Learn about the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.


Reduce Poverty in Developing Countries

A country’s economic growth, security, development and prosperity depend on the ability of its young population to obtain proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Students exposed to STEM education at an early age gain valuable experience in a consistently growing field. The skills they gain can be used to create a more innovative, efficient and productive workforce. Though most developing countries face many obstacles in affording basic education for young children, promoting STEM education can be one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty in developing countries.

As technological advancements become an inseparable part of our lives, STEM education can empower human resources with global competitiveness. UNESCO emphasizes that it is also a building block in creating “a critical mass of scientists, researchers and engineers to enable them to participate fully in the global economy.”

Obstacles in providing STEM education remain. According to the Institute of Engineering and Technology, low-quality teaching and a monotonous curriculum have been identified as two common barriers to students who end up losing interest in STEM education. Afraid of being perceived as “geeks” or “nerds,” students give in to negative stereotypes and fail to see how a STEM education can help propel them towards interesting, lucrative careers and reduce poverty in developing countries.

The perceived difficulty of STEM subjects and the ever-present pressure to obtain high scores scare off students, while a passive approach in transitioning from primary to secondary school discourages more thorough engagement. Furthermore, gender stereotypes create significant challenges for girls in developing countries to maintain an appreciable literary level, much less make strides in the STEM arena.

But there are also positive developments. In 2014, for example, 19 universities in west and central Africa received funding from the World Bank for specialized studies in STEM-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.

Initiatives like Code to Hope seek to improve digital literacy and education by empowering underserved communities with the necessary computer and technical skills. Code to Hope notes that access to technology is directly related to an income increase of $21 per month.

Organizations such as the WorldFund work in Latin America and target poverty by assisting educators in devising teaching methods that can help spark students’ interests in learning STEM-related subjects.

Moreover, open source applications, which depend on the collaborative work of people all over the world, are also enhancing learning in STEM fields for students and helping to reduce poverty in developing countries. Schools utilizing the open source approach not only provide a more robust education for their students, but also help create a more sustainable future by helping people move out of poverty.

The United Nations places a special emphasis on STEM education, noting that it can empower youths and help eliminate the gender gap for young women and girls. The U.N. also notes that growing career opportunities in STEM-related fields present the best antidote to chronic youth unemployment and that STEM skills are “an ideal communication channel that enhances social engagement as well as sharing information and innovative ideas to overcome poverty and to promote peace and prosperity for all.”

By providing the necessary skill development and equal employment opportunities as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce inequality, STEM education can help reduce poverty in developing countries.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Einstein ForumAs leaders in Africa packed up their bags at the conclusion of the first-ever Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering in Dakar, Senegal, there was new hope for the future of science and technology in the region.

The event, which was held from March 8-10, addressed various topics pertinent to the state of African science and technology research, such as gender disparity and the need for more advanced education. These issues brought commentary from local leaders to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

The Next Einstein Forum (NEF) was created in 2013 but this year marked the first global gathering, which was focused on promoting “a vibrant and cohesive scientific community.” The focus is on Africa in particular because it believes that the “next Einstein will be African.”

Panelists focused on the mobilization of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector of Africa. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon showed his support for STEM research as a weapon against poverty when he said, “Science is a force multiplier for advancing progress across all the Sustainable Development Goals.” The Next Einstein Forum supports a number of the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations by inspiring change in a continent with the capability to grow rapidly.

However, this growth has been stunted by the need to outsource STEM-based jobs worth almost $4 billion a year. PR Newswire reported that this yearly sum accounts for about 35 percent of the continent’s aid. This expense could easily be reduced with the emergence of STEM-educated Africans that could keep the jobs local.

The 2016 NEF also focused on the barriers African women interested in jobs in the STEM sector face. Many speakers supported the removal of the gender disparity in the industry as a solution to the lack of innovators.

The panel leading the fight, named “Driving the Agenda for African Women in STEM,” featured prominent female scientists such as France Cordova, the director of the U.S. National Science Foundation, and Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology. But they weren’t alone, as women made up about 40 percent of the NEF Fellows class.

In a culture described as “less progressive than most,” this number shows the group’s recent success in combating the gender gap in employment.

With the 2016 event over, the forum looks forward to its next meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in 2018. Supporters of the cause can still take action now, though, by signing the I Am Einstein petition and staying connected through the forum’s Twitter page with daily updates.

With its international backing and optimistic outlook, the Next Einstein Forum has inspired a new generation of African STEM students. By advancing education and providing more opportunities for growth, it has put itself in a good position to fight poverty in the region.

Jacob Hess

Sources: NEF, PR Newswire
Photo: Flickr