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Greater emphasis placed on STEM deliberate, says MOE

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OBSERVER: THE Ministry of Education (MOE) says the greater emphasis placed on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the National Standards Curriculum is deliberate and aims to rebrand the technical and vocational areas.


“STEM was used as one of the philosophical underpinnings for the development of the curriculum. We looked at what was happening in other countries and utilised a similar approach. So the whole aspect of project-based learning is infused in the curriculum where the students are actually learning the fundamentals of science,” said Dr Grace McLean, chief education officer.


She was speaking to reporters and editors at last week’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.


In relation to the progress of a STEM -based curriculum, Dr McLean said the MOE, since 2014, has been doing the integration and infusion of STEM in the education system, wherein eight secondary level institutions were identified as pilot in the curriculum’s development, which ensured that the STEM underpinnings were included right through to grade nine.


“Having completed the curriculum for the implementation, and we are sure that our students, after leaving the primary level, would have those basic competencies that are needed between grades seven to nine, through our resource and technology, which is what we use to infuse TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) as well as STEM, the curriculum would be advanced further,” she said.


Additionally, she said the MOE is in talks with external examination providers — Caribbean Examinations Council, City and Guilds and the National Council on Vocational, Education and Training — to ensure that they are now introducing project-based learning and the infusion of STEM in the curriculum.


“STEM is an effective way of rebranding our technical and vocational programmes. For example, if you have a table to be built, outside of those who look at the board and ensure the joints are aligned, there is another side behind it where you now have to do the research to ensure that the kind of glue that you utilise has the correct kind of materials to ensure that when it is placed on the joints for you to put it together, it will stick and last for many, many years. That’s STEM at work…it assists in rebranding how TVET actually works,” Dr McLean said.


Further, Dr McLean said the MOE has also taken an approach to providing greater support for students going to universities to do engineering skills, ICT and other STEM-based studies.


“These are the areas to use for innovation to plug back into the system. We are at a good place based on what we started a couple years ago and over time we will continue to see the implementation,” Dr McLean said.


CAPTION: Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education,  Youth and Information Dr. Grace McLean.