STEM as a buzzword

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I will start off with a disclaimer – I am an avid technologist who was fortunate to get a good STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education before it was called that. Heck, even the ‘Tech’ in TechZim in in the acronym.

That said, “STEM education” has become surprisingly popular of late, it is at risk of becoming a meaningless buzzword. I do not agree with manner in which it is being suggested as a cure-all, especially considering that we are already churning out a lot of STEM graduates into a contracting economy where formal employment stands at 11%. When you have a car that doesn’t have an engine, topping up the fuel isn’t going to help you. While a steady supply of fuel is necessary for a running car, you probably want to get an engine first.

Let’s say the initiative is wildly successful and 10 years from now, we have educated a large crop of Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians – not only that, but even our Humanities graduates have an appreciation of STEM fields. If our industry is unable to absorb them, what next? Is the whole plan hinged on exporting STEM human resources? Surely we can do better than this.

I appreciate that a high-school-level grasp of Mathematics and English provide necessary life-skills (really; everyone should understand how interest works), but I find it harder to justify that the sciences reach the same levels of necessity. In my humble opinion, Sciences should be encouraged, but not forced upon students. It is important to keep a level head because Zimbabweans have a tendency to get carried away when implementing what are, on paper, good ideas.

When correctly balanced, STEM education is a good idea, but it is not enough – it has to be in tandem with other government policies that will increase employment and provide the opportunities for all job-seekers, including those in STEM fields. So, let’s not get overboard.

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16 Comments

  1. G says:

    The right question is do w have a shortage of STEM graduates. Is there a shortage of engineers, computer scientists e.t.c .

    Is there empirical data to support this fact. I think the effort should be made to turn the current crop of unemployed STEM graduates into job creators.

    What we need is the following
    1. Refocus Zimbabwe’s education system from being academically oriented to being entrepreneurship oriented
    2. Introduce entrepreneurship training throughout the education system
    3. Introduce startup incubators at every university & college in Zimbabwe in partnership with the private sector to promote entrepreneurship, providing funding, mentor-ship & networking opportunities to entrepreneurs with viable prototypes not just ideas
    4. introduce a national startup competition that focuses on universities and colleges to promote entrepreneurship in partnership learning from other successful startup competitions like the Techzim startup challenge

    what this basically does is create a platform for the current crop of graduates to be wealth creators.

    what Zimbabwe needs is to create new wealth by developing the conditions necessary for the development of many high impact entrepreneurs in the mold of strive masiyiwa (econet), tawanda mutyebere (chicken slice) divine ndluku (securio), mark zuckerburg & the google guys

    thats what we need, let the government create the environment necessary for developing & promotion high impact entrepreneurs.

    i believe that zimbabwe has a competitive advantage to be a leader in africa in the knowledge economy because of the high number of people who are literate, can communicate in english and generally speaking love education

    lets turn this competitive advantage into becoming leaders in the tech sector. zimbabwe is producing enough STEM graduates. what we need is to promote entrepreneurship among-st STEM graduates

    1. TSA-The_Serial_Analyst says:

      Politics first (my self interests) then all your reasoning later!!!! (So goes our leaders’ focus – bitter pill to swallow but it’s the truth)

  2. Macd Chip says:

    This STEM thing is all rubbish. Its just a new buzz word of recycled book knowledge which Zim is now well known for.

    We have a lot of educated people who have met all the stem requirements but they are still jobless!

    The gvt needs to move away from this book education and focus on practical education. If these stem pple graduate with flying stars, then what?

    We need apprentice programs sponsored by gvt in every corner of the economy.

    1. TSA-The_Serial_Analyst says:

      Apprenticeships are done by qualified candidates and this is what the STEM program will do. The Ministry of Science and Tech is doing its part…and then the Ministry of Industry must do its part for industries to fire!! In fact, all ministries must do their part. So we cannot disregard STEM because we have to start from somewhre

    2. E says:

      True bt we are ognoring vanhu vema arts and as usualfocusing too much on 1 thing. For exampke for a stem person to do something they need to research build have a a lot of time. Bt a painter can be inspired paint on a canvas and create a million dollar piece of art.
      And also look at blackberry and apple blacjberry is stable secure and an engineers dream the ipgone is buggy insecure and dummed down bt cz of design by artists in ui and appearance it and android rule the market.

  3. anony says:

    its just their way of keeping evry high school graduate from joining e long list of unemployed university grads…there’s no rockect science 2 it.its all a pile of crap.we 10 years back in tech n science yet we scream stem.create jobs for evry1,evn in e arts sector coz ey constitute e majority of e people not sidelining e majority js bcoz u just wana hide how uv dismally failed them.

  4. Robert Ndlovu says:

    STEM might be indeed a new catchy phrase in Zimbabwe but more than 2 decades ago NSF (National Science Foundation) – US adopted STEM which was funded at University of Massachusetts Amherstts in 1997. NSF uses it as a guidance systems for developing tech , science and maths capacity save for medicine.

    In Zimbabwe in 1999 Dr.Nziramasanga report it was cited and recommended that our education system adopts science , maths , computers at an early stage as we were likely to have acute skills shortages in these areas in future (now)

    Well STEM as an acronym is bound to be used but aint nothing new.

    1. Tapiwa Munzwa says:

      Do we presently have an acute skills shortage in STEM fields?

    2. wacho says:

      STEM is a political acronym, no offence but its just now new, the so called STEM has been in place fore some years now, instead of trying to seem busy in the offices, they need to revive and strategise the structures which where setup.

  5. Peter G. Raeth, Ph.D. says:

    After 35 years as a research engineer specializing in computational science, it has become clear to me that technical knowledge is necessary but insufficient for success in STEM domains. One must also have skill in the liberal arts. While in Zimbabwe I brought this up several times during career-development presentations (http://informationanthology.net/CareerMentor/Zimbabwe/IntoAfrica.html)

  6. Lee says:

    We need more economists

  7. KG says:

    You know, I’m strangely going to side with the government on this one.

    Consider that our industry shows the great lack of ‘home grown’ ideas. A lot of machinery is antiquated and with the good old complaints of sanctions and low capital we are not updating. It would be good to have more minds geared towards these sort of problems. THE UGANDANS MADE AN ELECTRIC MINIBUS GUYS!!!!

    Entrepreneurship cannot be taught in institutions like universities and schools. It’s taught in real life and is really the some of everything not a particular thing in itself. But wouldn’t it be cool to have someone who because she was encouraged, went on do STEM and with a passion for one of our many (every) sectors that need new ideas developed the tech needed to move forward? She learned the technical stuff in school, stepped out and learned the entrepreneurial and BOOM!

    My point is this is one (and a very good) step in the right direction.

    1. G says:

      Entrepreneurship can be learned.

      Since it is possible to learn and improve your ability to identify a business opportunity and develop it into a product or service that the market is prepared to pay for, one can only conclude that it is possible to learn how to be a entrepreneur.

      For in its simplest form entrepreneurship is the ability to identify an opportunity, developing an appropriate product or service to satisfy the opportunity and setting up business systems to deliver the product or service to potential customers at a price that will make it sustainable for you to deliver it.

      Read more at http://www.techzim.co.zw/2014/01/anyone-can-become-high-impact-entrepreneur/

  8. Random User says:

    We need more presidential candidates

  9. Ziso says:

    Vanangu do not be emotional when approaching issues. Do not lose your senses either. STEM is excellent for Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe we have current economic problems because we have produced too many social graduates who spent much of their time arguing but with nothing to produce. Look at Jonathan Moyo he is always on Twitter. Compare with Auther Mutambara, no noise at all. I think it is correct to say most of the people who waste time on social media are non-doctors and non-engineers but social scientists graduates who have no innovations to provide except squabbling. Lets research.

  10. Peter G. Raethk, Ph.D. says:

    I must agree with Ziso, although there is something more I would add. “Research” is the beginning. There is the whole performance ethic, a constant cycle of study-learn-work-produce. Research falls under the study component.

    Let me also reemphasize my comment on liberal arts being an important element of a STEM graduate’s effectiveness.

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