Declining Interest in STEM Education in Nigeria: The Need for Urgent Intervention
By 2030, more than half of the jobs in the world will be STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — based. According to research from Brookings — a Washington based research institution — more STEM-oriented metropolitan economies perform strongly on a wide range of economic indicators, from innovation to employment.
But how prepared is Nigeria for this reality? Are students in Nigerian schools equipped to take advantage of this opportunity?
Technology companies are springing up, the number of jobs requiring STEM based skills is on the increase, but it is sad that Nigerian students are poorly equipped to fill this huge gap. The challenges range from poverty, poor school funding and waning interest from students, to poorly trained teachers, inadequate learning aids, incessant strikes, among others.
Consequently, traditional education in Nigeria is failing, with STEM education being the worst hit. Students are largely uninspired to pursue their passion in STEM related fields, thereby leaving them unprepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century world.
In a quest to change this negative trend, integrated digital payment and commerce company, Interswitch has launched an initiative conceived and developed to promote STEM education in Nigeria by providing the right support and reward for students and other stakeholders.
The initiative, called Interswitch SPAK, is poised to support young Nigerians who are interested in acquiring the problem-solving skills that come with a solid STEM education, in order to fix the challenges facing Nigeria in various sectors of the economy. This initiative would ultimately position young Nigerian professionals to compete favourably with their colleagues globally.
To kickstart the initiative, a national science competition is set to begin in April 2018. The competition will feature students from all states of the federation competing in core STEM subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
The top two students in the competition will be awarded a five-year scholarship, a Mac laptop and gold trophy; and a 3-year scholarship, a laptop and a silver trophy respectively. While the third position will receive a-two-year scholarship, a laptop, and a bronze trophy.
This is indeed a laudable initiative which should increase student interest and enrolment in STEM subjects, among other benefits.
Owing to existing incompetence levels, a large number of jobs in Nigeria’s employment ecosystem have been outsourced to expatriates. Initiatives like SPAK will on the long run increase competitiveness and improve employment levels for Nigerians. And as a matter of cause-and-effect, improved STEM skills at the grass roots will equal greater employment, lower rate of job losses, higher exports and a direct positive impact on Nigeria’s GDP.
While STEM education may have been plagued by various challenges in the past, Interswitch SPAK is one great step towards ameliorating the situation, and it deserves the support and commendation of every stakeholder. One also hopes that other successful Nigerian tech companies will be inspired by this to create similar opportunities for the nation’s education system.