Home / FT View/ Solving the STEM problem

Solving the STEM problem


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 21 March 2019 00:00

Facebook

The Budget 2019 proposal to retrain Arts graduates into different Science and Technology streams by bearing the cost during their retraining period is a positive step by the Government. But resolving the overdependence on the Arts stream requires policies that run deeper. 

The majority of unemployed graduates in Sri Lanka are from the Arts stream. Among the reasons for this is the fact that Arts absorbs more students both at both Advanced Level and university, with few deviating away from it to gain skills that would improve their employability.   

According to research carried out by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in 2017, the lack of qualified and experienced teachers is particularly prevalent in the areas of Science and Mathematics. Though Sri Lanka has a surplus of teachers at the national level, IPS points out in its findings that there is a dearth in qualified and experienced teachers at both the national and sub national levels, especially for the subjects of Mathematics, Science and English (in that order), in schools across the country.

Considering the Government is focused on improving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education at the university level, it goes without saying that schoolchildren, particularly at the all-important O/L juncture, ought to receive a sound foundation in these field-relevant subjects if those students are to pursue higher studies in the STEM fields. 

The IPS has correctly called for urgent attention on improving Science and Mathematics education at the school level with this goal in mind. Any education reforms that may be on the cards then must prioritise advanced teacher training, particularly for these highly-technical subjects, if the Government is serious about its goal of improving STEM education at the tertiary level.

The study also revealed that in 2015, 45% of students who sat for the O/Ls failed or only conditionally passed the exam due to failing Mathematics. This is especially alarming given that passing O/Ls remains a prerequisite for most further education courses currently available in Sri Lanka, including the GCE Advanced Level.

Tertiary level teacher training in Sri Lanka, experts point out, does not cater to the needs of the country’s education system, what with only two out of the 17 State universities housing Faculties of Education and only three with their own Departments of Education. This is an area the Ministry of Education needs to look into when formulating plans for reform. Another problem that has plagued the public school system for decades is the disparity between ‘big’ schools and ‘small’ schools. Unsurprisingly, the study has shown that the lack of qualified teachers is particularly prevalent in the latter. The number of teachers in privileged schools, according to IPS, exceeds the number of recommended teachers, while underprivileged and low-achieving schools did not have enough teachers, leading to an inequitable allocation of teachers. O/L performance is significantly lower in schools that don’t offer Science subjects for the Advanced Level and schools that terminate at Grade 5 or Grade 8.

There is also a large shortage of qualified teachers (both novice and experienced) for Mathematics and Science that is apparent in all provincial schools. According to IPS, shortages of English teachers exist in the Northern, Eastern, North Central, Uva and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. Without fixing these teacher disparities, encouraging more students to do STEM will be an uphill battle.


Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

Poignant pondering on a patriarch

Monday, 22 April 2019

Almost five months have gone. It is with a profound sense of sadness that we experienced the demise of our veteran teacher, respected author, legal luminary, an accomplished ambassador, an eminent public servant and an amazing human being, Dr. Wickre


Enemies of democracy – Part I Demand for a strongman to rule the country

Monday, 22 April 2019

I posed the following question to a group of university students recently: ‘Do you desire to have a strongman to rule Sri Lanka today?’ The students, made up of both genders in the age group of 25 to 35, chorused the answer in the affirmative. Wh


The sad demise of Jet Airways

Monday, 22 April 2019

Jet Airways of India, once the premier full-service carrier of the sub-continent, has ceased operations. “Jet Airways and its Board of Directors have been forced to take this extreme measure, as prolonged and sustained efforts with lenders and auth


No more stones to break Sri Lankan bones

Friday, 19 April 2019

Trial by fire is not a new ordeal to Christian community. It predates Notre Dame and Nazism by millennia. In fact, a decade or so before Nero torched believers to light Roman avenues, Jewish religious leaders put Jesus-followers to the test as the Ch


Columnists More