The development and application of science, technology and innovation is crucial to national development policies and programmes such as the Kenya Vision 2030 and its successive medium-term plans.
Economic, social and cultural development goes hand in hand with scientific and technological transformation. And the “2014 African Economic Outlook” cites new technology and innovation as critical for ensuring the benefits of greater integration into local, regional and global value chains and managing the associated risks for the poor and marginalised.
Yet the growth of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in our education and training institutions has not been rapid enough to support the science, technology and innovation sector.
According to the National Education Sector Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, Kenyan universities have shifted focus from Stem-based courses with the large proportion of enrolment being seen in non-science fields. Besides, universities do not have the qualified faculty with the capacity to teach Stem-related programmes of the quality to meet the standards. Also, the cost of delivering Stem programmes is higher than that of the social sciences and humanities because of the need to invest in the necessary expensive equipment.
The strategic plan also cites the low number of students transitioning from secondary level education with the skills and qualifications required for Stem programmes as the other factor.
The 2019 KCPE exam results showed candidates who scored 400 marks and above dropped by 15.4 per cent, pulled down by poor performance in science and mathematics.
The plan also decries the lack of promotion centres at national and county levels to create interest and a culture of science, technology and innovation. To prepare Africa for the future, stakeholders in the education sector must take urgent and decisive actions to encourage the uptake of Stem subjects from an early age by showing students their significance and bright career prospects.
With key learnings from industrial and tech giants such as China, different sectors are realigning themselves to emerging global trends in Kenya and are likely to increase job opportunities to Stem students.
It’s encouraging to see that biology, chemistry and physics recorded the best performance in the 2019 KCSE. This is a good start and stakeholders are increasingly taking a leading role in the promotion of Stem education in Africa.
At Interswitch, we have taken up the challenge by unveiling, last April, the InterswitchSPAK competition, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It gives both public and private secondary schools a chance to nominate their best six Form Three Stem students for the competition. The ultimate winner will receive a Sh1.5 million scholarship, a laptop and signage for their school while the first and second runners-up get Sh750,000 and Sh150,000, respectively, and a laptop each.
Overall, 1,356 students registered for the competition. These are not just the future scientists, but the future of our business community, who will solve problems and sustain businesses that will grow the Kenyan, and African, economy.
Ms Kantai is the regional head of marketing and corporate communications, Interswitch East Africa (K) Ltd. [email protected]