STEM Education Project

This project supports hands-on learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses in primary and secondary schools in Cameroon, specifically in the marginalized rural community of the South West regions. School facilities in the area are desperately scarce especially in basic lab equipment, such as beakers, test tubes, and racks. The absence of these basic facilities has led to a lower percentage of students pursuing careers in STEM and subsequently creating a gap in the economy. Some of the objectives of SODEIT STEM project include offering alternative affordable equipment to allow for effective STEM education in primary and secondary schools. For example, the kits will have simple materials such as wires, recycled plastic bottles, batteries, small light bulbs, and instruction sheets on how to use these materials to conduct experiments. The experiment kits will benefit the students by generating greater participation in STEM courses and improve the performance of students in these overcrowded classrooms and underfunded schools. The project also trains teachers in primary and secondary schools on how to integrate hands-on STEM learning and practical lessons using the experiment kits and implement it. After the training, they will continuously teach all the students that enroll in the schools and impart them with hands-on STEM learning.

Accessing and receiving quality pre-primary, primary and secondary education is a universal right. Every child in the world has the right to learn. Access to education improves the overall health and longevity of society and grows economies. On any given school day, over 1 billion children around the world head to school. However, for many of them, schooling does not lead to learning (UNICEF, 2020). In Cameroon, the net level of enrollment in primary schools is at 42.84% (UNESCO UIS, 2016). A lack of trained teachers, inadequate learning materials, and makeshift classes make learning difficult for many children. Globally, 200 million young people leave school without the skills they need to thrive (UNESCO, 2013). This has set up a whole generation to a future of poverty, insecurity, and unemployment. It is starving corporations/organizations of the skills that are the lifeline of enterprise and innovation. It is also undermining prospects for sustained economic growth in the world’s poor regions such as Cameroon. It has been projected that in a decade 825 million children – half of all young people in the world – will not have the most basic skills necessary for jobs of the future (Watt, 2020). Children living in poverty are the most greatly affected in accessing quality education. Some of the reasons include:

- Inadequate infrastructure such as internet connectivity, electricity, desks, chairs, textbooks, and overcrowded classrooms.
- Not having a school within their location to go to; school is a long distance away from home.
- The school facilities such as laboratories being under-equipped.
- The teachers at the school not having had the training needed to help children learn effectively.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in schools is the global cornerstone for sustainable development. STEM education creates critical thinkers and cultivates generations of innovators. Innovation creates new products that develop industries and create employment opportunities which immensely build the economy. A workforce with the ability to apply critical thinking, creativity, and innovation is indeed a desire for all countries globally. Unfortunately, Africa has had the inability to fill STEM jobs within industries (Sichangi, 2018). This is because of the setbacks in education that it suffers from let alone delivering STEM education. For Africa to rid itself of poverty and promote sustainable development, STEM education is one of the subjects that it needs to effectively implement in its schools. The deficit exists as a result of:

- Classroom teaching and learning practices that are predominantly geared towards passing examinations, and not towards applying knowledge acquired to solve real-life problems affecting societies.
- Due to a high rate of poverty in the region, children and young people are unable to access schools.
- Lack of financial resources to properly equip schools with supplementary learning materials.
- Poorly trained teachers with low confidence in teaching science.

The report to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), of the International Commission on education for the twenty-first century, chaired by Jacques Delors, emphasized on delivering an education that provides learning focused on the practical application of what had been learned. Students should be engaged in active and meaningful learning which is associated with hands-on instructional strategies and student centered classroom environments (Dickerson et al., 2006). One way to promote active learning is by using experiment kits. Science and technology experiment kits are innovative kits that blend theoretical education and practical applicability. They are mainly designed to impart knowledge because they provide detailed and subtle facts on various aspects of life and physical sciences. A user can explore different branches of science including chemistry, biology, physics, ecology, and astronomy using these kits (Science First, 2018). The benefits of using experiment kits in schools are numerous:

- Generate greater active participation among students.
- Empower and engage populations that otherwise feel disenfranchised.
- Increase teacher content knowledge and confidence to teach STEM courses.
- Provide enjoyment for both the teachers and students who use them.
- It can be easily carried home or outside of the classroom for remedial practice.

SODEIT Specific Objectives
1. To improve the performance in STEM courses of primary and secondary-level students in Cameroon by implementing practical learning strategies using science and technology experiment kits that enhance mastery of content.
2. To strengthen learning facilities in schools by providing them with affordable custom made science and technology experiment kits with locally sourced materials.
3. To increase the morale and confidence of teachers while teaching STEM courses by providing them with training on how to incorporate hands-on practical learning with theoretical coursework in their classrooms.

Overall Strategies
1. Locally source materials like recycled plastic bottles to be used in developing and distributing in the experiment kits.
2. Develop an online media portal to download Do-It-Yourself (DIY) experiment instruction sheets for ready availability.
3. Train teachers on how to incorporate the hands-on practical activities into their STEM lessons by integrating theoretical learning with experimentation.
4. Categorize the experiment sheets and kits as per the different class grades and concerning the Cameroonian Education curriculum to ensure continuous knowledge that builds along the education chain
5. Closely cooperate with universities, teacher training institutions, schools, vocational training centers, foundations, bilateral and multilateral institutions, and public authorities to integrate this form of STEM learning into the existing education system.
6. Deploy the project in the marginalized rural communities.
7. Partner with Siemens Stiftung to contribute to quality STEM education.

Target Group
The primary beneficiary of this project will be children in primary and secondary school levels in the marginalized rural community of the South West region in Cameroon. The teachers who implement the science and technology experiment kits in their classrooms will also directly benefit from this program by acquiring hands-on teaching techniques that will be continuously passed on to the students who enroll in the schools. The indirect beneficiaries will be the local communities and the entire country as the students will develop creativity, innovativeness, critical thinking, logical thinking, and problem-solving skills that will impact the society and economy positively.

Evaluation Criteria
Based on a three-year evaluation of ‘Experimento’ conducted by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) School of Education’s Chair of School Pedagogy and the Institute for Biology Education at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) the following indicators will be used:
1. If materials meet subject-specific curriculum criteria in Cameroon.
2. If teachers are satisfied with the materials.
3. If advanced training seminars for the teachers are expanding knowledge.
4. How teachers are passing along their knowledge to children.
5. The learning outcomes for children.

Sustainability
The project will train teachers in primary and secondary schools in Cameroon on how to implement hands-on STEM learning and practical lessons using science and technology experiment kits. After the training, the teachers will then proceed to teach their students who will benefit immensely. The trained teachers will continuously teach all the students that enroll in the schools and impart them with hands-on STEM learning. The practical and experimentation lessons will enable the students to have a firm grasp on STEM concepts which will further support the student in higher learning. The students will also acquire key skills in creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving which will further translate to having a positive impact on the country’s society. This project will reach numerous students in impoverished areas who will be able to put their STEM practice into good use and come up with innovative ideas to transform their communities and address issues such as water pollution through creating simple water filtration systems. The students will also acquire a competitive advantage in gaining access to tertiary learning institutions and seeking employment thus escaping lifelong poverty.

Project Description Prepared by: Candyanne Kagure Mugo

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