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Tue, Mar 28, 2023

Future-proofing South Africa’s school curriculum through STEM programmes

On 4 March, we celebrated World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. A day that reminds us that engineering – the design, building and use of engines, machines and structures through science and technology, forms an essential part of future-proofing our nation.

According to Matshoene Tladi, current subject head of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programme at Nokuphila School, “our programme offers a well-rounded learning experience for learners. Our STEM programme is a learning bridge that connects our various standalone subjects. We equip students with essential skills in the form of hands-on experiments and challenges that integrate principles and knowledge from natural science, technology, mathematics and robotics, which includes engineering and coding.”

What is the aim of the STEM programme?

Our world is undergoing a major shift with The Fourth Industrial Revolution, and we want our learners to keep up. To do so, Nokuphila has implemented a STEM programme that will help equip their learners for future job opportunities. The programme will also teach essential skills like analytical thinking, problem-solving collaboration, and digital literacy – all of which are increasingly important in today’s ever-evolving landscape.

Why is it important to have STEM programmes in underprivileged areas?

The future of our nation and the world hinges on today’s youth, many of whom are in impoverished neighbourhoods. To ensure that the youth have an equal opportunity to thrive, it is important to boost their confidence by providing them with resources and opportunities they may not otherwise be able to access due to financial constraints. Thereby enabling all children, regardless of socioeconomic status or background, a chance at success in this ever-evolving digital arena.

This initiative aims to provide individuals with the aptitude and skills they’ll need in an ever-changing job market. Equipping them with confidence and modern tech knowledge, we hope our programme helps break their cycle of poverty, while preparing them for future career opportunities – ensuring no one is left behind!

What are some of the problems facing STEM programmes in these areas?

Many impoverished communities lack quality STEM education programmes due to a shortage of resources. With limited funding available this problem is exacerbated, hindering any progress that can be made towards bridging this gap.

South African learners often face significant obstacles while developing literacy skills. As a result, they may struggle to learn and grasp science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Local schools are facing an uphill struggle – though the need for basic learning necessities such as safe, functioning buildings and materials is paramount, many of these institutions lack the infrastructure to provide even those. STEM programmes remain a distant dream due to the minimal resources available within their reach.

What can be done to help establish STEM programmes in these areas?

Investing in STEM programmes across school districts is essential for the success of private and public companies, governments, and all stakeholders involved. Leaders need to come together to develop effective solutions that strengthen financials so our schools can provide quality educational opportunities with a focus on science, technology engineering and mathematics. This collective effort will ultimately benefit the entire economy.

Schools need to collaborate with appropriate departments to create curriculums that are backed up and address issues related to the current social context. Additionally, working with vulnerable communities necessitates tailoring instruction toward their STEM needs.

With the help of generous sponsors, The Love Trust works to raise funds for its STEM programme. This involves presenting proposals or getting creative with what resources are available – sometimes money isn’t even necessary to bring learning experiences like robotics into schools!

To make STEM engaging and enjoyable for learners, committed teachers that are willing to go the extra mile are essential. It takes skilled educators who have creative approaches to teaching complex material that will effectively engage their classes.

How can you help?

Tladi strongly believes that people with the necessary expertise should be encouraged to return to their roots and inspire students in educational institutions: “We can provide our youth with a valuable opportunity for growth by introducing inspiring role models, who have pursued successful careers, such as those from scientific advancements like space exploration.”

Parents have an important role to play in encouraging their children’s engagement with the educational programme. By providing resources, such as old and recycled items of interest that can be used for project-based learning at home, parents increase opportunities for development outside a traditional school setting.

In the ever-changing future of work, STEM skills are key for our children to succeed. We must embrace this Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensure that current students have the resources they need to be prepared. With a strong focus on problem-solving, we can encourage creative mindsets so young innovators don’t just rely on someone else – instead, equip them with confidence in their own abilities as well.

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