Less than 20 percent of students, who exit secondary schools, study the single sciences.
This is according to information that has been analyzed by the Ministry of Education.
The clear outcome of this situation is that over the years there has been a deficit of scientists and technologists in critical areas, leading to the education sector being significantly short of competent science teachers.
For example many schools, especially in the hinterland regions, do not have teachers in the single sciences, particularly in the areas of Chemistry and Physics.
For this reason, technical officials within the Education Ministry have derived a plan designed to support teachers in the delivery of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects through Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
The three major components that are suggested for implementation are: training for Teachers at the Primary and Secondary Levels (Grades 3 – 6; 7 – 9 and 10 – 11); School Based Support – school based workshops, mentoring sessions; provision of resources and support for the use of these resources to support Inquiry Based Science Education and evaluation of training programmes and transfer of learning.
It is expected that this, among other measures, will be fast-tracked with funding from the 2018 national budget allocated to the Education Ministry.
The move in this direction is in fact one that was influenced by a study conducted by a UK Expert Group in 2007. Officials of the Education Ministry found that there were similarities in the local school system, which set in motion the measures to address this glaring shortcoming.
In the study it was found that the performance of students in science and technology is directly influenced by their learning experiences.
For this very reason, it is important that the school system seeks to link school science to the application of science in society. In fact, it was found that in many cases this linkage is very weak, because many students are not motivated to learn science and this lack of motivation has been linked to the way science is taught.
This saw the Ministry embracing a mission to revamp how lessons are delivered to the nation’s children with the delivery of science and technology being a main focus.
The level of interest in the sciences at the secondary level is rooted in what happens at the earlier levels. In view of this fact, the Ministry had taken a decision to embrace the implementation of the Inquiry Science Education Approach, through collaborations with the Caribbean Academy of Science and Chilean Academy of Science at Grades Five and Six for 10 pilot primary schools.
This pilot was extended to mathematics under a UNESCO-funded project recently (2015-2016).
With the introduction of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fairs such as the Sagicor Visionaries Challenge (SVC) competition, students at the secondary level were exposed to project-based learning which integrated science with technology, engineering and mathematics for sustainable development.
Guyana recorded the highest number of entries in this competition in 2014 and became the regional winners in 2015. Students’ level of enthusiasm in STEM increased and they were able to show how this integrated approach can be used to propose solutions for school and community problems.
As such, the Ministry of Education engaged the private sector and the University of Guyana in supporting the students’ projects. This approach is linked to the Ministry’s present strategic plan which looks at linking STEM education with the national development goals of Guyana.
The Pueblo Science Camp (http://puebloscience.org/) for Secondary School teachers was also held for the first time in Guyana on August 19 – 21, 2015, as a result of a collaboration between the St. Stanislaus Toronto Alumni and the Ministry and a second successful camp was held August 2-4, 2017.
This camp engaged teachers in training on ‘hands-on’ activities in science using readily available low cost materials. This approach moved away from the traditional theoretical approach taken in the teaching of science with limited practical experiences.
The first annual science camp for students was held in Region 10 on August 24-28, 2015. This camp was held in collaboration with the International Language Institute (ILI). Thirty-five students were exposed to interactive science lessons used to teach language (in the case of this camp – Portuguese. Field work, tours and the history of mining were some of the interactive sessions included. Students were also encouraged to support the re-establishment of Science/STEM clubs. The Bishops’ High school participants established their STEM club as an immediate output of this camp. Several other STEM clubs are being formed to create a space for interactive learning for science.
These initiatives, according to information out of the Ministry, serve to incorporate building critical thinking through interactive activities that foster collaboration and communication. This is in light of the officials’ belief that these experiences will help to transform science education, thus it is necessary for their expansion in more schools.
The objectives of encouraging camps include: strengthening science and technology education at the primary and secondary level; increasing students’ ‘hands-on’ participation through Inquiry Based Science Education and Reorient science education for sustainability [linking indoor and outdoor learning].
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