$100m ear­marked for STEM acad­e­mies

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Grace McLean Grace McLean is chief ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer. Email feed­back to columns@ glean­erjm.com.

REF­ER­ENCE IS made to the ar­ti­cle ‘STEM acad­emy lead­ers out in cold’ in your Novem­ber 7, 2016 edi­tion.

Con­trary to the as­ser­tions in the ar­ti­cle, the sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engineering and math­e­mat­ics (STEM) pro­gramme in schools re­mains one of high pri­or­ity for the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, Youth and In­for­ma­tion. The per­ti­nent facts are set out below.

The STEM ini­tia­tive, which was started for­mally within the min­istry in May 2014, has con­tin­ued un­der the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The min­istry has es­tab­lished a STEM Steer­ing Com­mit­tee to pro­vide over­sight to the work of the STEM team, as well as the STEM tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee that is driv­ing the re­search and train­ing com­po­nent of the ini­tia­tive. Meet­ings of both com­mit­tees are be­ing held con­sis­tently.

Since the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, the fol­low­ing has been done: 1. One steer­ing com­mit­tee meet­ing held in Septem­ber 2016. 2. New mem­bers in­vited to join the STEM Com­mit­tee. 3. Ini­tial dis­cus­sions to launch the STEM Am­bas­sador As­so­ci­a­tion of Ja­maica (SAAJ). [This is a pri­vate body led by Dr Richard Aiken, who will be part­ner­ing with the min­istry.] 4. Just over $100 mil­lion has been bud­geted to fund STEM and non-STEM schools for the pro­cure­ment of STEM-re­lated equip­ment and ma­te­rial. 5. The in­dus­try-led mem­bers are still part of the STEM ini­tia­tive. We are now at the point where a meet­ing is be­ing planned with the five of the 10 schools se­lected man­age­ment com­mit­tees to up­date them on what has been done to date and to ob­tain their recom­mit­ment for the way for­ward. 6. A new STEM co­or­di­na­tor has been ap­pointed.

The fol­low­ing tasks have been un­der­taken and are ei­ther com­plete or near com­ple­tion. 1. A STEM con­cept pa­per has been com­pleted and rat­i­fied by the STEM steer­ing com­mit­tee. 2. Work on a list of cri­te­ria for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of STEM in­sti­tu­tions for the aca­demic year started in 2016 and is now 90 per cent com­plete.

EN­HANCE­MENTS

3. The Sydney Pagon Agri­cul­tural School is be­ing trans­formed into a STEM Acad­emy. This was ini­ti­ated in Septem­ber 2014 with some 100 stu­dents at grade seven and ap­prox­i­mately $20 mil­lion has been spent on in­fra­struc­ture to in­clude up­grad­ing of class­rooms and lab­o­ra­to­ries. Equip­ment and ma­te­rial for the sci­ence pro­gramme are be­ing pro­vided to en­hance the project-based learn­ing in ac­cor­dance with STEM method­ol­ogy. Re­cruit­ment of ad­di­tional staff was done and ex­ten­sive train­ing of the aca­demic and other staff mem­bers done to build their ca­pac­ity. Con­struc­tion is cur­rently be­ing planned for ad­di­tional space and train­ing is be­ing planned to com­mence this month. 4. Ten in­sti­tu­tions are be­ing trans­formed into STEM acad­e­mies as in­di­cated below: St An­drew High – lo­gis­tics and trans­porta­tion. Kingston Tech­ni­cal High School – con­struc­tion and in­fra­struc­ture.

Dunoon Tech­ni­cal High School – telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion, cable, and me­dia. Vere Tech­ni­cal High School – agri­cul­ture and engineering.

Dinthill Tech­ni­cal High School – live­stock and small ru­mi­nant farm­ing. St Mary Tech­ni­cal High School agronomy, farm man­age­ment and food pro­cess­ing. Her­bert Mor­ri­son Tech­ni­cal High – ICT and BPO. Manch­ester High School – ICT and agro-pro­cess­ing. Bel­mont Acad­emy – ICT and BPO. Sydney Pagon – agri­cul­ture and agro-pro­cess­ing. 5. There is an on­go­ing en­gage­ment of in­dus­try part­ners with the aim of pro­vid­ing sup­port for the ini­tia­tive to in­clude fi­nan­cial sup­port. In this regard, a STEM sym­po­sium is planned for the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017. Com­mit­tees have been es­tab­lished and are work­ing to en­sure that the ob­jec­tives are achieved. 6. The in­te­gra­tion of the STEM method­ol­ogy into the cur­ricu­lum for grades one to nine is the min­istry’s tar­get and is be­ing im­ple­mented un­der the Na­tional Stan­dards Cur­ricu­lum (NSC). 7. Fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the core sub­jects for grade seven to nine at a STEM acad­emy has been com­pleted and was rat­i­fied by the STEM steer­ing com­mit­tee. 8. Train­ing co­or­di­nated by the min­istry was done for teach­ers from the se­lected schools in ed­u­ca­tional Re­gions One and Five. Other re­gions will be done in this quar­ter. This was to sen­si­tise and train them with re­spect to the in­te­gra­tion of the STEM method­ol­ogy within the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. 9. Train­ing has also been done with prin­ci­pals and vi­ceprin­ci­pals of schools with re­spect to the re­vised cur­ricu­lum that in­te­grates the STEM method­ol­ogy. 10. Part­ner­ships have been built with a team from UTech led by Dr Sher­maine Bar­rett. This en­gage­ment has been very pro­duc­tive so far and they are will­ing to part­ner with us to of­fer train­ing for se­lected schools in or­der to build their ca­pac­ity. 11. There are also plans to foster a part­ner­ship with other ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion such as UWI, teach­ers’ col­leges, North­ern Caribbean Univer­sity and the HEART Trust/NTA.

Sev­eral ini­tia­tives are al­ready in train to move the STEM project for­ward. Clearly there is no in­ten­tion to “side­line” any­one. A series of meet­ings with stake­hold­ers are be­ing sched­uled for the third week in Novem­ber.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, Youth and In­for­ma­tion re­mains open to fur­ther di­a­logue on this mat­ter.

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