November 23, 2017

When Individuals Refuse To Let Science Education Die

The Ghana Education Service has had its fair share of challenges in the past; from uncertainty to how long students should stay in the classroom to lack of teaching materials. Every now and again there is a teacher strike as if to remind us how important they are to the nation’s success and there is still the case of Ghana been ranked last for quality of Maths and Science education. To top it all off, WASSCE pass rates in science and maths have steadily dropped to below 50% over the last 5 years and we eagerly await analysis of the BECE results this year.

Truth is, when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), you would be forgiven for believing it is all doom and gloom. Unbeknown to you is the fact that in the midst of all the doom and gloom are select pockets of persons working to equip students with everything they need to excel in the STEM fields. These initiatives are driven by individuals with a passion who want to give to students what they never had.  Notable amongst these is the MISE foundation which trains students to become mathematicians who can compete on a global stage. Two of their students, Jessica Quaye and Isabelle Quaye who just so happen to be siblings won the Best Student in West Africa and Worldwide 1st place in the Cambridge Add Maths respectively.

The MISE foundation is not alone, read on to be introduced to four other relatively young programs that continue to strengthen students in STEM at no expense to the students involved.

Science Book Tour by GhScientific

The first phase of the Science Book Tour coming to a close
The first phase of the Science Book Tour coming to a close

Just as not all fingers are made equal so not all science books are equal. Where traditional science themed books are known for being text heavy, there is a whole world of science themed books out there designed specifically to spark the imagination and provide ideas for hands on practical experiments.

The Science Book Tour by GhScientific seeks to get as many of these books as possible into the hands of basic school pupils with the hope of spreading the excitement that comes with discovering science for themselves. Starting with schools in the Greater Accra and Eastern Regions, the Book Tour also gives pupils the opportunity to interact with science professionals in a bid to encourage more pupils to pursue further studies in science, technology, engineering and maths.Figure 1. Students engaging in a design challenge during the Science Book Tour

 

Design and Innovative projects from Innovate Ghana

Working with tertiary education students from the Western, Central and Greater Accra regions, Innovate Ghana guides students to do exactly what their name implies; Innovate.  Since 2013, innovate Ghana has been designing competitions to develop problem solvers and critical thinkers who see problems as opportunities, and who pursue innovative solutions to national development problems. Led by Freda Yawson, students are coached and given the opportunity to develop critical STEM skills needed for the manufacturing and engineering sectors. For the first time this year, junior high school students were also given the chance to participate. Based on the innovative projects produced, it is clear that JHS students also want to be change makers and if engaged early, there’s no limit to what they can do.

Experience Days by STEM Centre Ghana

How do you solve the problem of a lack of resources to run practical science lessons at the basic level? One solution will be to have a centrally located common space where students can gather and be challenged while partaking in practical science experiments. This is exactly what the STEM Centre does.

Principles of pulley systems using alternative resources
Principles of pulley systems using alternative resources

Led by Silas Anku, a former science teacher who understands too well the problems faced by science teachers, the STEM Centre offers basic school pupils the needed practical lessons to complement efforts of teachers in their various schools. Show up at the Museum of Science and Technology on the right day and you will see many young pupil’s in lab coats testing and proving science.

 

Free Coding Lessons with the Phoenix Project

The phoenix project is an innovative program by Code Ghana and the ISpace foundation which brings together children to build and share their ideas in Science, Technology, Engineering and Arts. Led by Tina Appiah, the Phoenix Project which is in its maiden year seeks to work closely with 300 children each year to build and share their ideas surrounding STEM, while also learning along the way. So far this year, the Phoenix Project has worked with 90 students aged between 7-16 years. Activities for the younger age group included an introduction to basic programming principles and using the Scratch visual programming language to build simple games, interactive stories and animations. The older age group on the other hand also got introduced to web designing using HTML + CSS.

The Ghana Code Club wants to inspire children to pursue other digital making activities in addition to learning about computational thinking, problem solving, planning, designing and collaboration.

The above is far from an exhaustive list. Notable mentions include the Practical Education Network which recently finished training 1,000 teachers in Greater Accra Region in practical hands on approaches to science education and Dext Technology which just distributed free science sets which are made in Ghana to rural schools in Nsoatre (Brong Ahafo Region).

Now if you still believe the future is bleak, I suggest you continue to watch this space, because there are individuals with a passion for STEM who refuse to let Nkrumah’s dream die. Together they are changing the status quo and aren’t going anywhere until the job is done.