In a borderless world, STEM education had become critical in order to uplift, change and contribute to economic prosperity.
Never before has innovative knowledge been in such demand and a skilled 21st century workforce depends on highly trained and talented scientific and mathematic workers. The ability to analyse data, solve problems and being able to reason abstractly, is now highly sought after.
This calls for global changes in addressing socio-economic inequalities. According to research undertaken by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) across the world, variables such as socially disadvantaged schools, among others, are responsible for 25% of the inequalities noted among 9 to 15 year olds. Even in First World countries such as the United States, a disappointing picture of student performance in mathematics and science is painted.
A focus on STEM education should be an urgent policy commitment, especially in African countries such as South Africa where the expected pass rate for these sought after subjects are a dismal 20%. In a society without abstract thinking skills and an education system where creativity and “being different” is not high on the academic agenda, it is almost impossible for talented learners to stay motivated and focused.
The annual Global Index of Innovation showed that the most famous 220 entrepreneurs of the 19th and 20th century were those with backgrounds in engineering, physics and chemistry and responsible for the biggest breakthroughs or new applications to existing technologies. In this globally respected publication, among the 84 indicators for a successful STEM future, research ability, reading skills, creative thinking and science were cited as top pillars towards technological and creative outputs.
Individual studies looked at the correlation between innovative industries and STEM graduates to compete successfully in the global economy. It is interesting to note that knowledge-based jobs, fast-growing high tech companies and attractive investment policies, play the most important roles in ensuring workforce education. There is a worldwide call for state policy makers and educators to improve STEM education to better align its educational outcomes with workforce needs, as published in Knowledge Without Borders.
The world needs technically innovative people to address the ills of the past and ensure a better future for all.