Recognising the need for fourth industrial revolution workers, many countries have coordinated their efforts to boost science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) careers. As Trinidad and Tobago engages in its economic planning, policy makers must recognise that if we are to re-industrialize our country, we must choose products with high value-added along the international value chain of products. Additionally, if we are to modify, utilise or simply integrate new technologies in every facet of our existence, we must develop the skills to do so. Technology is going to dramatically reshape our workforce in the coming years and Trinidad and Tobago’s ability to rapidly adapt to technological change, and even more importantly, innovate, will be paramount for job creation and our future economic success.
STEM, as is being implemented, is an educational program developed to prepare primary and secondary students for college and graduate study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In addition to subject-specific learning, STEM aims to foster inquiring minds, logical reasoning, and collaboration skills. It is important to add that STEM must not only be limited to primary and secondary schooling, given today’s pace and scale of disruption. Our country needs to ensure a modern workforce is available to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution which must include out of school programs. STEM should also be a part of the re-tooling of sections of our work force.
STEM education can contribute to the creation of critical thinkers.
It certainly has in many countries increased science literacy, and has the potential to facilitate the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas. At a very simplistic level and not to over emphasize the point, STEM based education can lead to science and technology-based innovation which can result in science and engineering-based entrepreneurship finding its way into new technology companies which with proper incentives, planning and coordination, can produce exports. This must be both the hope and thrust of our efforts to achieve economic growth as well as diversification in a rapidly changing business environment globally.
Most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. In this regard, in our country there has to be seen a partnering of government, the private sector, community leaders and educational institutions, especially those at the tertiary level.
Perhaps the relevant authorities, the private sector, the government planners and the education sector after careful evaluation and review of the efforts that are taking place around the world, may arrive in a timely manner at the conclusion that we must create a STEM Initiative that will provide a sustainable means to ensure related learning is truly everywhere.
One of the interesting phenomenon that is observed from several countries is that STEM education helps to bridge the gender gaps sometimes found in math and science fields. Initiatives in a number of countries have been established that increase the roles of women in STEM-related fields. STEM education has the potential to break the traditional gender roles. We have an opportunity to re-engineer our economy.
Let us look at the changing global environment and identify the prerequisites to help us survive and be competitive