Celebrating Science: CHED and British Council Partner to enhance STEM education in the PH

Last October 24 to 27, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the British Council, joined by experts from the University of Leicester, Dr. Mark Windale and Dr. George Forster, conducted a four-day Scoping Needs Analysis to provide an in-depth understanding of the status of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the Philippines.
 
The partnership aims to develop a capacity building toolkit for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) who are designing and implementing continuous professional development (CPD) programs such as graduate studies, teacher trainings, seminars and workshops to better equip SHS educators teaching STEM.
 
With the implementation of Senior High School this school year, students may now choose a specialized track based on their knowledge, skills, and interests. These four tracks are Academic, Arts and Design, Sports, and Technical Vocational and Livelihood. Under the Academic Track, there is a specific strand for STEM. For SY 2016-2017, out of the nationwide total of 1,451,964 students enrolled in Senior High School (SHS), 212,168 students are enrolled in the STEM strand. To this end, the Commission is committed to preparing our new SHS STEM teachers to be equipped, both with content and pedagogy, to provide quality teaching and learning to our SHS STEM students.
The workshop initiated discussions among public and private SHS teachers on the present Philippine education system. Teachers shared their successes and challenges in implementing the new SHS Program, including being able to teach new topics which challenges students to develop 21st century skills. The observation arose that STEM is currently viewed as separate subjects rather than a field that integrates all components, and more efforts were needed to foster a different approach to improve STEM education in the country.
 
Dr. Windale and Dr. Forster shared best practices from the UK education system, such as building a culture where STEM is “celebrated” and viewed as “fun” and applicable to real-world situations. For instance, Science Learning Centers across the UK and STEM clubs enable students to actively learn about science on their own outside of the classroom.
 
They also shared CPD initiatives currently undertaken by their government. One of these is a National STEM Education Program, which develops STEM educators through continuous training, curriculum enhancement, and improving infrastructure and delivery mechanisms.
Insights gained were that certain SHS STEM subjects, such as those centered on research, were best done through an inquiry and experiential-learning approach. It was also noted that in order to successfully implement the SHS curriculum, teachers must triple their efforts to enhance both their subject-matter knowledge and their pedagogical techniques and skills. Through the Commission’s efforts to support CPD among SHS teachers, it is hoped that students will also be equipped with the mindset and skills to excel in STEM.
 
The Senior High School Support project is part of the Commission on Higher Education’s K to 12 Transition Program Management Unit in fulfillment of its mandate enshrined in RA 10533 to ensure a smooth transition to the K to 12 by providing curricular alignment and teacher training programs.
 
The British Council Newton Fund promotes the economic development and welfare in partnering countries, through science and innovation partnerships. It aims to strengthen science and innovation capacity and unlock further funding to support poverty alleviation. It is managed by UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and delivered through 15 UK delivery partners in collaboration with 16 partner countries.