The State of STEM Education in Nigeria

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Since the creation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM) education by the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2001, it has been adopted globally to teach students critical thinking as well as prepare them for professionalism across scientific disciplines to solve challenging problems confronting society.


As the years rolled by, the concept has gained more recognition across the African continent, albeit at a lower speed compared to the rest of the world.


Being a strategic part of the education system capable of leapfrogging the development of African nations like others elsewhere, especially in the 21st century, efforts are being made to ensure that African countries inculcate the style and get the best out of STEM.


Nigeria is one of the countries on the continent that can be counted as having adopted STEM education, but to what extent is this?


In this article, we will be exploring the state of STEM education in Nigeria and all that surrounds it.


A discussion about STEM education in Nigeria will touch on the general educational system given that the country is still trying to get it right in the education sector which is expected to serve as the home base for STEM.


Undoubtedly, STEM education in Nigeria is capable of drawing up innovative ideas and bringing out more ingenuity which can get the country to a level of relevance globally.


While the role of STEM education in ensuring development and global relevance can not be over-emphasized, its present level of engagement in Nigeria is quite low given the state of the education system.


But amidst that, Nigeria has shown a desirable level of commitment to ensuring a reasonable portion of University education is devoted to Science and Technology while other levels before the tertiary level, i.e. primary and secondary are at the receiving end with little attention to science and technology.


However, this is not supposed to be the case as it is expected that the earlier students are inculcated into the science and technology system, the better for society.


In recent times, there seems to be a reasonable level of improvement as there has been more enrolment for STEM programmes even though the challenges inhibiting more progress and full adoption remain. 


The major challenges are brought to the fore here.



Challenges facing STEM education.


1. Outdated Curriculum and teaching methods


One important guide to the effective impartation of knowledge is the curriculum. In Nigeria, the existing curriculum is as old as can be imagined thereby leaving one to wonder what will happen to new and evolving techniques when old ideas and methods are still being propagated.


Science and technology keep evolving daily and as such STEM curriculum is expected to be flexible to accommodate changes as and when due. However, in Nigeria,  the reverse is the case whereby curricula that have been in existence for years are still being followed to the detriment of learners who need emerging techniques for critical thinking and solutions, hence there is a drawback.


Just as school curriculums are outdated, most schools still engage in the traditional and old methods of teaching even in the 21st century when teachers are expected to be innovative and engage in participatory teaching methods to engage the students thinking faculties.


As much as the curriculum needs to be modified to accommodate and integrate STEM methodologies, teaching methods also need adequate restructuring to reflect more practicality to be useful in addressing real-life situations.


2. Inadequate instructional facilities.


Across Nigeria, basic infrastructure like water, internet facilities, electricity, laboratories and computers among others needed for effective STEM education are mostly not available in the majority of the schools from basic to tertiary institutions.


It is a fact that most schools across Nigeria are yet to move beyond the lay-back traditional practices which only give precedence to chairs and desks and writing materials without any recourse to other modern essential facilities.


This then raises the question: how are STEM students expected to thrive and practice things being taught without facilities such as internet service, computers and the like?


 Well, the answer is not far-fetched as students can not fare well when basic infrastructure is not available. Then, because getting effective STEM education requires a more practical approach where students are taught experimentally with the opportunity to think through issues and find solutions, the lack of facilities has made such impossible hence students are only being taught abstractly.


3. Lack of skilled teachers/trainers


STEM education is technology-based and needs skilled personnel to teach it which again brings one to ask, does Nigeria have the required skilled personnel? If yes, does the country have enough to meet the number of students across the country?


The answer is obviously no thereby creating a gap which needs to be filled urgently because teachers can only impact the knowledge they have.


4. Inadequate Funding


The education sector in Nigeria as a whole needs adequate funding to grow and make a meaningful impact. For STEM, due to its emerging nature, it needs more funding hence as the sector lacks good investment, science and technology education will suffer.


Though these challenges and many more others still linger and have hindered the success of STEM education in Nigeria, it is not to say that governments and other stakeholders aren’t doing anything to salvage the situation.


Efforts to improve STEM education in Nigeria


Achieving efficiency in STEM education in Nigeria is not the duty of government alone, rather it needs the intervention of private individuals, organisations as well and other stakeholders.


And true to this, several efforts are already in place aiming to improve education.


On the part of the government, it has introduced several programmes from primary to tertiary levels to serve as motivations for STEM enrollment and also help teach its practicality. One such is the FunSTEM programme introduced in public schools targeted at engaging students in practical aspects of science and tech with the main aim of raising their curiosity and advancing their cause for finding solutions to everyday issues.


It is also forming alliances with relevant bodies as well as governments across the world to build and provide the needed STEM learning avenues to create better opportunities for students.


We also have efforts by private individuals and groups. For instance, the MTN foundation has at several times given scholarships to secondary students to pursue STEM courses at the tertiary levels, the TY Danjuma Foundation also partners with other actors at state and local levels to train teachers on acquiring necessary STEM skills to impart knowledge to students so also, the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) which supports and sponsors many girls in STEM courses to allow more girls participation in science and technology, just to mention a few.


In the same vein, some state governments across Nigeria have also embraced the idea of partnership with other private organisations to get the STEM ideology well articulated and adequately embraced in their domains.


The efforts are commendable but Nigeria’s journey to the desired level in STEM education is still far so more actions and commitments are still needed.


In all of these, one certainty is that all players have recognised the importance of the effective actualisation of STEM education in all spheres of life in present times and as such cannot afford to stand by without matching action with words to see to it that Nigeria does the right thing and is not left behind as the world moves unto scientific and technological discoveries.

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