The participation rate in secondary science and mathematics education is a key indicator of a country’s potential for producing a scientificallyliterate society, which is a prerequisite for the development of science and technology and economic advancement. Until recently, compared to levels in many countries, enrollment rates in science at secondary schools in Ethiopia was low. It is therefore not surprising that the development of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) tradition, and the corresponding public investment in STEM fields in the nation, is limited. With a poor base of preparation in science and mathematics education to appreciate and use science and technology, the capacity of a country to innovate, adapt technology to local conditions, and use and maintain technologies is out of reach. Currently, a dramatic increase in enrollment rates in science at the secondary school level is recorded. Nevertheless, most secondary schools frequently lack adequate resources, the infrastructure of teaching laboratories and suitably trained science and mathematics teachers who are enthusiastic and capable of stimulating scientific thinking.STEM advancement cannot occur without quality science and mathematics education at secondary schools; to achieve that quality, Ethiopia should require significant investment at all educational levels. The mission of building quality STEM capacity in Ethiopia however is much grandeur and doing so is far from easy and is complicated by economic and the recent untiring expansion of higher education institutions. On one hand, STEM education is a very expensive enterprise. Without massive financial resources building strong STEM capability will simply remain a dream. STEM education demands not just a one-off major input but a long-term commitment consistent with the larger mission of building such capability at all levels of the education systems. Building such an institution for a developing country like Ethiopia is a formidable challenge. On the other hand, without strong STEM education and innovative capabilities progress and development will be very difficult to achieve. Growing an STEM workforce is a sound economic development strategy that has a significant impact on a nation’s competitiveness, and economic growth. Increasing the number of high school, college, and postgraduate students majoring in STEM subjects is therefore critical for economic prosperity. Recently the government of Ethiopia has started investing in improving English language instruction and STEM education (E-STEM). There is encouraging activity underway across the country in schools and higher education systems, by universities, to lift secondary school student engagement and attainment in E-STEM and to support secondary school science, mathematics, and English language teachers to improve student outcomes.Improving secondary school students’ engagement in E-STEM activities is bigger than schools and what happens in the secondary school classrooms. The school education systems alone cannot overcome thepervading cultural norm. Thus, the need for Universities to be more involved in partnerships with general educational systems has been stressed by federal and state governments of Ethiopia. Besides, government universities themselves are also concerned with the quality of incoming students; many of whom are not well prepared for the rigorous class work, English language skills and critical thinking required for STEM majors. The net result has been the development of traditional STEM summer outreach programs for secondary school students at some government universities.
Like many public universities in Ethiopia, Wollo University has traditionally had a few small and isolated E-STEM Summer Outreach Programs. However, in 2015/16 with the auspices of the College of Natural and Computational Sciences at Wollo University, it has initiated a concerted effort to institutionalize its E-STEM Outreach efforts in a manner to increase the extent of these efforts, assess their impacts, and maintain the University’s commitment in-campus and to area school districts for an extended period of time. The Universityrecognizes the importance of a focus on English language skill development and STEM education in the secondary school years and maintaining this focus throughout schooling. Still, ensuring that Wollo University can meet the needs of quality E-STEM education outreach and engagement is not easy. There are often challenges that must be overcome; for example, access to E-STEM building facility funding is an important factor. Thus, for Wollo University, the need to collaborate can be acute. Collaborating and partnership with renowned scientists and families, non-profit organizations, global institutions and other stakeholders enables access to facilities, funding, equipment and networks that are often limited in our own institution.
The College of Natural and Computational Sciences and The E-STEM Council at Wollo University play a leading role in hosting and coordinating the program. The E-STEM Outreach program is, therefore, at the heart of its mission. In general, the E-STEM Outreach program at Wollo University has two basic goals.
In partnership with the local secondary schools, the E-STEM Outreach program at Wollo University has identified five key areas for action through which local secondary school education has the greatest leverage.
The key priorities that have been consistent across all individual initiatives and that have been shown to be critical to our program include:
Established in 2016, the Wollo UniversityE-STEM Outreach Program hassupported prepare and inspire over 200 high school students and 120 science, mathematics and English language teachers. From E-STEM oriented courses and workshops for gifted students to professional development on E-STEM content and pedagogy for Science,Mathematics and English language teachers, the programoffers diverse activities during the academic year and through the summer programs.
WolloUniversity E-STEM Summer Outreach Program for Gifted & Talented Students.
Education in E-STEM-related fields involves a range of skills, habits of mind, and subject matter knowledge. The purpose of the Summer E-STEM Outreach Program atWollo University is to enable students to draw on these skills and habits, as well as on their E-STEM-related subject matter knowledge, in order to participate productively in the intellectual and civic life of our society and to provide the foundation for their further education in these areas if they seek it. E-STEM subjects in the Summer Outreach Program includes but not be limited to,
Enrichment coursesare also includedin the program on team-based researchproject, nature explorations andinvestigations, and various lab classes. Team-based research projects are required for all 9th- and 11-gradestudents. Students select one topicin mathematics, electronics, physics, chemistry,biology, computer science and Earth and space sciences at thebeginning of the Summer Outreach year, plantheir research, record their activities,and present the results of one of theirresearch studies to the class at the endof the outreach year. Visitations and collaborativestudies are recommendedfor further experience in the field. Innature, explorations, and investigations,groups of students visit specific industries, sites to investigate geological featuresand biological aspects or to performoutdoor experiments. Throughout theexplorations and research, students areexpected to understand the process ofresearch, set up hypotheses and carryout experiments, analyze results, andderive conclusions.
Preparation in the SpaceScience and Technology Olympiads is another importantpart of what the Wollo University Summer E-STEM outreach program provides.The purpose of the Space Science and TechnologyOlympiadsare to:
Students are selected based on achievementon pre-assessments and individualinterest. For Olympiad preparationcourses, teachers at the College of Natural and Computational sciences continually develop mathematics, space science and technology materials in accordance to Olympiadpreparations. Selected students areoffered enrichment courses. Coursecontent in these areas are moreadvanced than those of high school courses.