Asean governments joined hands with international researchers on Thursday in a bid to improve the region’s lagging standard of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and maths).
The researchers offered proposals to boost STEM education at an international video conference organized by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMOE) on Thursday. They were also asked to develop strategies for strengthening Asean students’ STEM knowledge, which is falling victim to digital disruption, rural-urban inequality, and impacts from Covid-19.STEM knowledge among Asean youth currently falls well below the global average. Supat Champathong, Thailand’s permanent secretary for education, stressed the significance of research in lifting the quality of education in Asean countries hit by three challenges. These were low PISA scores, shortages of STEM teachers needed to pull these nations out of the middle-income trap, and the need to build awareness on sustainable development among the youth. The challenges highlight the need for research to address future issues and shape national strategies to drive Asean sustainability, Supat said.
Pornpun Waitayangkoon, director of SEAMEO STEM-ED, said her organisation was focused on improving teachers’ skills and also on research to address current challenges. The conference covered three main topics: how to create a professional learning community (PLC) among educators; provision of STEM education from kindergarten to 12th grade; and the creation of world-standard STEM vocational colleges. Dee Bourbon, the senior social investment advisor of Chevron Corp, added that Chevron is collaborating with SEAMEO STEM-ED to improve regional STEM education. She said the company had helped develop “people’s power” in Asean for six years under the “Chevron Enjoy Science” project – a model for regional education-oriented CSR activities which has now entered its second phase.
She shared lessons learnt from the project with Asean researchers, highlighting the development of teaching skills and the benefits of PLC and teacher assessment. Proposals from the conference will be presented at the SEAMEO Congress 2021, scheduled for late April, which will be attended by the education ministers of all the Asean nations.