SmarterPH is a collaborative project that aims to consolidate efforts for the improvement of the quality of STEM education in the Philippines was launched last June 28, 2018 at the Bayanihan Center of Unilab Foundation in Manila.
The “Launchpad to the STEM Collaborative” was convened by Unilab Foundation under its STEM.ph program and was participated by key institutions in the education sector, namely; Dept. of Education (DepEd), Philippine Science High School (PISAY), and the University of the Philippines College of Education.
Among the resource persons who shared messages, researches, analyses, and presentations were Lorna Dig- Diño, Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction of DepEd; Lilia Habacon, Executive Director of PISAY; and Lilibeth Aristorenas, Executive Director of Unilab Foundation (ULF).
The College of Education of the University of the Philippines Diliman was represented by the Dean of the College, Dr. Marie Therese Angeline P. Bustos and Associate Professor Sheryl Lyn Monterola.
The STEM is an applied and interdisciplinary approach that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – a curriculum under the newly rolled-out K to 12 program.
Unilab Foundation’s STEM.ph program, on the other hand, aims to strengthen STEM education by way of collaboration with other institutions and by consolidating efforts that are geared towards the improvement of the quality of STEM education in the Philippines.
The future looks bleak but there is hope
In the overview of the current status of innovation and STEM education in the country, Usec. Lorna Dig-Diño has emphasized that STEM people will continue to play a vital role in the country’s development today and in the future.
We have a substantial number of learners, according to Usec. Dig- Diño, as she cited a total of 26,629,845 learners. Currently, however, only 226,688 leaners are enrolled under the STEM track in spite of a total of 921,000 enrolled in senior high school.
Apparently, the students’ lack of interest in STEM is also compounded by the fact that teachers are also ill-prepared to teach on the subjects.
In her presentation, Dr. Marie Therese Bustos cited a 2017 study (RCTQ Study: Teacher Development Needs Study), which revealed that a “large proportion of DepEd Teachers are poorly prepared to deliver the K to 12 curriculums in Filipino, English, Mathematics, and Science among Grades 6, 8, and 10.
“In the case of science at all three grade levels, the majority of teachers failed to demonstrate an adequate level of knowledge on the subject,” said Dr. Bustos.
Dr. Bustos also presented that an increasing percentage of students are not ready for the demands of the Chemistry competencies at their current grade levels.
Among the contributing factors that Dr. Bustos recognized included curriculum implementation, teacher specialization and training, instruction, and school resources.
“If we focus on the data alone, the future looks bleak,” admitted Dr. Bustos, but “I am hopeful because we are moving towards a STEM collaborative effort”
Talking on the importance of STEM Education, PISAY Director Lilia Habacon explained that the STEM facilitates the development of 21st century skills, such as; critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.”
“These are the skills which are recognized as a requirement that will allow the students of today to succeed at work and in life,” stressed Habacon.
Building a #smarterPH
Moving forward, the three institutions presented their plans during the “Launchpad to the STEM Collaborative” event. Among the critical element in the plan is the establishment of a STEM Education Center.
The Education Center is considered the first of its kind in the country and its establishment is intended to enhance the skills and uplift the expertise of Filipino educators on the area of STEM.
“The facility will ensure continuous training and improvement of our educators,” said Lilibeth Aristorenas, Executive Director of ULF.
The facility will help in the development of relevant materials by embarking on a vigorous research.
“If we want to nurture our learners and attain quality STEM schools, we must start by properly equipping our educators,” added Aristorenas.
The plan for the establishment of a STEM Education Center was well-received by those who were present during the event. It earned the support of leaders and representatives from government agencies, international NGOs, private institutions, science professionals, and science enthusiasts.
Collaboration is key in attaining #smarterPH
“We need more local STEM experts who are willing to work closer to the grassroots so that students will feel that there is really a STEM education,” shared UP associate professor Sheryl Lyn Monterola.
Monterola’s call to action for collaboration was an outcome the Global Benchmarking Tour Massachusetts, USA organized by the ULF and which was attended by the representatives from the three institutions.
The learning tour that took place in April this year included an intensive five-day training program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and with visits at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and science high schools in the area.
The plan for the STEM Education Center is among the outcome of the tour.
“Together let’s build a society with high regard for science and innovation, where we will have enough scientists and engineers who will help improve the quality of life of our countrymen. Together let’s build a better and smarter Philippines,” declared the three institutions together with the ULF.