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.