photo credit: dianebrowneblog.blogspot.com
With the ever-increasing development that is taking place in the Caribbean region, the need for proper education, particularly in the fields of Mathematics and Science has risen drastically. This is fueled by both the increasing popularity and demand of math and science oriented professions within the region. However, the Caribbean seems to be experiencing a growing problem with regards to math and science education, in that fewer people are interested in the fields as well as their associated career paths, (Bosch, 2010). However, new programs and opportunities are helping to fight this, and rekindle both interest and performance of Caribbean youths in math and science.
One such opportunity is the Emerging Caribbean Scientists (ECS) Programs. They offer scholarships, research experiences, mentoring, and supplemental instruction to students in the University of the Virgin Islands pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, with the hope of fostering an increase in the amount of students majoring in the STEM disciplines, and help promote excellent performance in said students in the UVI. They also support faculty research, which will in turn support undergraduate student research, through providing funding opportunities for research at UVI as well as off island.
Another strategy being deployed is the use of various competitions to foster interest and creativity. One of the latest developments in this area is a Pioneering Science and Sustainability Competition, which is taking place this year. The competition is the first of its kind and serves an initiative to foster an outgrowth to build sustainable Caribbean communities, and at the same time, address increase student participation in STEM areas. It is currently being sponsored by Sagicor, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and the nonprofit Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF).
For its first year in operation, the challenge is open to schools in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago, though the sponsors hope to extend the range of participants in upcoming years. Rewards for this competition range from the national to the regional level, and include new scientific equipment, an all-expenses paid trip to Florida as well as cash prizes that range from US $1,000 – US $ 5000. The reception among schools across the region has been reported to be excellent thus far.
Finally, increasing mentorship among both students and teachers can help curb problems involving the interest and participation of students in STEM disciplines as well as any other area of study. Bosch, 2010 reports that while Latin American and Caribbean countries provide education for almost all their young people, the quality of said education is often too poor. Ideally having appropriate mentorship programs will aid students in attaining a better understanding in areas of study with which they are particularly weak, so that success, and an increase in interest can be achieved in these areas.
Mentorship can also greatly benefit the teacher, so that the link between professionals within the math and science community and school teachers is reinforced. This will also improve individuals' teaching abilities as they learn various methods to educate students more effectively, and develop suitable means of evaluation.
The STEM disciplines, while experiencing an increase in demand, are as of recent, being neglected by more Caribbean students. While this poses a challenge, measures are being put in place to mitigate such a problem, ranging from the providing of increased funding and opportunities for students, competitions that offer great rewards and experiences and mentorship programs which will assist both teachers and students to overcome the challenges that lie within the areas of Science and Mathematics.
By: Alexandra Daley