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Sunday 21 July 2019
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Tobago

Gender gap in STEM, says Chief Sec

KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY

TOBAGO House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary and Secretary of Education, Innovation and Energy Kelvin Charles wants to see more girls involved in science and technology.

Speaking at the launch of cycle one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) vacation camp at the Tobago Information Technology Ltd (TTIL) in Signal Hill on Monday, Charles called on parents to encourage their girls to enter the field.

“There is another gap that we need to treat with, and that’s the gender gap, because as I look around, I am seeing more boys than girls. Parents, as much as we are encouraging our boys, I want us also want us to encourage our girls in the field of STEM.

"In light of this, we must make greater effort to reduce this imbalance and to recognise that for our country to move forward, we need to exploit the abilities and the talents of both genders.”

Charles admonished the parents gathered to be mindful of where science and technology is going, adding, “As much as we may be unwilling to keep up, we have to develop the mindset that says, I have that responsibility to stay ahead of the game.”

He said STEM continues to grow in popularity around the world.

"Closer examination of the world’s most thriving economy reveals that a strong emphasis is usually placed on the fields of science, engineering, technology and math. Therefore it is in our interest as a developing nation and certainly as a developing island, if we want to stem the divide to harness our energies and efforts on these key areas. The safest and smartest way has proven to be through education.

"We advance the STEM agenda through our education system, but we cannot rely on our old educational approaches when confronting this real world.”

Commending the parents who enrolled their children in the vacation programme, Charles said there are plans to turn STEM into "STEAM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) by putting emphasis on the arts as part of the creative genius of the island's people.

“Given the number of vacation camps that we have around this island, this one, in my mind, easily stands out because of its focus, and I applaud those of you who would have selected this programme.

“Interestingly, we must also challenge the view that a STEM education is more so for the young and upcoming learners. Of course they would play a critical role in Tobago’s development, but as adults, we cannot shy away from the opportunity to adopt a STEM hobby or to even complete a short course for certificate. If we are to manage these little ones and our teenagers, we have to stay at least one step ahead of them. The changing values that we re witnessing, and the attack on our moral fibre are elements which can destroy our island of Tobago.”

The STEM camp is broken down into four cycles from July 8-August 30. The activities include robotics, programming and geographic information systems, and there would also be an experiment with drone technology. Each cycle runs for a period of two weeks in two age groups; eight-11 and 12-15.

The eight-11 age group will be accommodated in the mornings, while the afternoon sessions are designated for young people between 12 and 15.

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