STEMming the Fear

STEMming the Fear
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The silence was deafening. Every student was still but within they trembled with fear. Results of the Mathematics exam were being handed out. What would be their grade?
“Only two students passed!” the teacher exclaimed. How sad was the day!

Occurrences like the one described above happen quite frequently in Jamaica. In recent years Mathematics and Science subjects have been marred by low grades and a steady decline in the number of students who pursue the subjects at CSEC/CAPE and the tertiary level.
But why are Math and Science subjects important?

Mathematics is just one of the subjects which forms a part of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Globally, most jobs trending presently are in STEM areas as the world increasingly relies on science and digitalization to push us into the future. In order to make the most of these global opportunities, it is imperative that our Jamaican youth improve their performance in these subjects.

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An instructor at the GraceKennedy Parade Gardens STEM Centre shows eager minds a trick in art and craft.

In line with their overall focus on youth development, the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation did not hesitate to come up with ways to help students excel in STEM subjects.

The Chairman of the organization, James Moss-Solomon, who is passionate about students being better equipped to meet the demands of the workforce, decided that a physical space where students can get the help they need would be the ideal intervention.
This gave birth to the GraceKennedy Parade Gardens STEM Centre in 2014.

The state of the art facility has captured the imagination of about 50 students who attend the STEM centre daily. There are approximately 120 students and classes are scheduled each day. The students have welcomed the facility as it has strengthened their knowledge and academic performance in Mathematics and the Sciences. The response from the community has been equally great as they are appreciative and cooperative. Parents have indicated that they have seen marked improvements their children’s grades.

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Mud and dirt all over. Students get their hands dirty in a session.

Mrs. Yvonne Eubank, Administrator at the facility, said that STEM occupations are growing rapidly and ad indicated by the US Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing twice as fast as other occupations. Scientific and technological innovations are increasing rapidly and these contribute to the building of economies across the world. She emphasised that students need to be aware of important fields where promising careers exist and also so they can pursue the right training and to enter such career path.
Mrs. Eubank highlighted a wide variety of STEM careers, for example:

  • Application Software Developers
  • Conservation Scientists
  • Electro Mechanical Technicians
  • Biostatisticians
  • Geospatial Information Scientists and Technologists
  • Technical Writers

She suggested that many high school students are intimidated by STEM subjects because they are too challenging. They shy away from pursuing Math and Science as they prefer to pursue subjects that will give them an easy pass. However, Mrs. Eubank says if students are sensitized to STEM subjects form earlier on and are informed about the lucrative careers in the field, more young people would take the plunge.

Mrs. Eubank offered this gem of advice to students when choosing careers generally, “Examine self and identify goals and interests. Research careers that would match your interests and lead to goal achievement, also seek career guidance. Discussions with professionals in your field of interest would be beneficial so seek opportunities to do so.”

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