STORY FROM August 20, 2021

STEAM Education in Nepal

Have you ever closed your eyes and tried to imagine a picture of a scientist, doctor, nurse, engineer, teacher, air hostess, pilot, and plumber in your mind? I might not be wrong to guess most of you imagined a scientist, doctor, engineer, pilot, and plumber as a male figure in your head whereas you imagined a nurse, air hostess, and teacher as a female figure. Although the stereotype is changing and men are also into nursing and females are also into engineering, scientists but the gap is still there. Engineering is still seen as a ‘male profession’ and the workplace is highly dominated by males despite the change in attitude in our society. Even in our schools; Maths, Science and Arts have been in the curriculum for a long time and in recent decades Technological subjects such as computer science are also being introduced but what about engineering? Engineering as a subject is still missed in our school curriculum which is why most students do not have early exposure to this subject. 

Education for students in STEAM( Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is gaining popularity recently due to its potential to enhance science learning and broaden participation in science and technology through various practical approaches to learning in this technologically advanced era. As we are moving towards the fourth industrial revolution, new technology, skills, jobs will be generated for which we need to produce a generation that is capable of handling these future challenges and STEAM education helps one to achieve that. STEAM education should increase the students' understanding of how things work and improve their use of technologies  (Bybee, 2010). It allows and supports children to think critically, thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process (Education Commission of the States, March 2019; INSTITUTE FOR ARTS INTEGRATION & STEAM RESEARCH., n.d.). We should integrate all disciplines of STEAM and develop deep technical and professional skills which can meet the demand and address the challenges of the 21st century (Bybee, 2010). Various efforts have been made to improve the education system including the integration of computer science, different science projects, and brainstorming ideas in the school curriculum.

After the post-world war Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects started to gain popularity as the US economy boomed with the consumption of new goods ultimately raising the living standard of the people drastically (Banks & Barlex, 2014). Following the US, Europe also promoted and encouraged STEM and provided jobs for returning servicemen and other workers (Banks & Barlex, 2014). STEM has become a buzzword in the world of education (Thomas, 2020) and the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, John Maeda started the movement on the transformation of STEM to STEAM, campaigning to add “arts” to STEM (Gunn, 2020). 

The approach of integrating art with STEM, also known as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), has gained tremendous popularity over the last several decades due to its potential to enhance science learning and broaden participation in science (Vossoughi & Bevan, 2014). The challenges, issues, and complex problems served by scientific thinkers today require 21st-century professionals who go beyond traditional thinking and who can think creatively. Teaching and learning that connects the arts and sciences are essential because integrating arts makes science most effective and fun. Adding arts to STEM doesn’t fade the other four disciplines but rather enhances the framework inciting a greater sense of creativity and curiosity. Therefore, a number of schools worldwide are incorporating teaching methods that are more in line with STEAM education, as the use of arts makes the explanations easier to understand, makes learning more fun, and keeps the students more engaged. 

Though the concept of STEAM is not new in developed countries, in Nepal it is a relatively new term. Only a few organizations, schools, and government authorities are working for it and many do not even know what STEAM is. We can still see the underrepresentation of women in STEAM fields not only in Nepal but globally, which continues to be a problem. Gender stereotypes, male-dominated culture, fewer role models, math anxiety, confidence gap, and occupational segregation that is still prevalent in most areas are the reason why there are fewer women in these fields (AAUW)  as STEAM fields are often viewed as masculine, and teachers and parents often underestimate girls’ abilities on technical studies starting as early as preschool (Wallenius, 2017). 

After the Basic and Primary Education Plan (BPEP 1 and BPEP 2) and introduction of the School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), the Government of Nepal has prepared an education sector plan covering the period July 2016- July 2023, called the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP). It aims for inclusive and equitable access, participation, and learning outcomes of the education system through Investment of US$6.66 billion from 2016-2023 in multiple areas including teacher management and professional development; school governance and management; institutional capacity development; disaster risk reduction; school safety, monitoring, evaluation, and assessment; examination and accreditation, ICT, and health and nutrition. (Government of Nepal Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, 2019, pg.no. 85). 

Even though the Nepal Government has made various plans and policies it is not being implemented properly. In rural areas and public schools, students face problems such as lack of equipped library, computer facility, lack of basic infrastructure, discrimination, and so on resulting in high dropout rates. Even though SSDP has plans to improve the basic education system, provide quality education, expand the role of ICT in education, and many more, it does not especially mention STEAM education or STEAM approach of teaching. (Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education, 2016) Nepal's school education system is in the transforming phase by reforming curriculum, textbooks, and education policy to make education more integrated from the basic level to the upper level (CDC, 2007; Belbase, 2019). This initiative will be the first small step towards big change. Schools and teachers will also understand what STEAM is and its importance in children’s life through various awareness and training.

 

 

Reference

 

Wallenius, J. T. (2017). Challenging gender roles through STEM education in Nepal. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017PhDT.........6W/abstract

STORY BY:

Sampriti Risal

Program Assistant

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