There is little chance that a big country with weak STEM education will industrialize. STEM refers to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Weak, here, means shortage in skills.
So, it’s pleasing that we have heard a lot of noise made about rectifying Kenya’s shortcomings in STEM. It is important that Kenyan girls should not be left behind when the improvements start being effected. They already trail in STEM and time must be taken to come up with ways of attracting more young girls into STEM.
It is not only important for their professional development. Also, it will hand them capacity to exploit more entrepreneurship opportunities in future.
Truth is that businesses in STEM fields are far more likely to get funding. They have a higher barrier of entry. Some investors have said they would not fund a business they can start tomorrow.
Here are 4 ways by HerBusiness on how to attract more Kenyan girls into STEM:
1.Change how it’s all taught
At the base of this problem is the curriculum. There has to be a reason why 78% of Kenyan students prefer arts and humanities for post-secondary education. The rote learning and exam-be-all basis on which Kenyan education is built is already bad enough. It’s another thing when you want to use these to make boys and girls want to learn physics or chemistry. The review of Kenya’s curriculum should replace this method with an alternative like active learning. This will surely raise the numbers.
2.Increase interest among high school girls
Secondary schools in Kenya of course have science clubs. But the mechanisms for attracting girls to STEM should really turn heads. The numbers are low. 2015 KCSE results analysis lay bare some of the facts. Not only were girls second to boys in all the major subjects but also they did not show interest in technical stuff like metalwork, woodwork and electricity. To change this reality, mentorship is needed so that the girls can be shown the opportunities they are forgoing. HerBusiness applauds efforts by these two women who do that.
3.Retain those who are into STEM
Retention begins with ensuring no girl who wishes to pursue STEM fails to do so because of lack of resources. Giving more HELB loan to STEM students is a great start. Those who have pursued it further need to know that careers in these fields will be devoid of bias against women and will be flexible to the realities of being a working mother. Starting families is one reason why women drop out of the field. Of course, more effort should be made in recognizing achievements of Kenyan women in STEM if only to create Role Models that will attract others.
4.Encourage research culture
There is only one way to encourage a research culture and that is investing in research work. The Kenya’s Government own Science, Technology and Innovation sector plan admits the same. Kenya spends less than 1% of its GDP on Research and Development. Compare this to countries such as Germany and USA which spend more than 2% of their much larger GDPs. A UNESCO report, in 2010, revealed that only 3% of STEM Academic staff in Kenyan Universities are women. Can you blame them? Other female innovators do not want to work in a field with low quality educators, facilities and little collaboration.2