Education for girls has been acknowledged as a fundamental strategy to help alleviate poverty in the developing world. However, there is more to the solution. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for girls is essential in the context of today’s global tech world, yet this goal has received little attention.
Girls in both developed and developing countries have fewer opportunities to study the sciences and mathematics than their male counterparts. There are several reasons for this:
1. Girls are taught to be quiet and respectful in class.
2. There is a misconception that girls cannot do math and science.
3. There is a lack of data about why fewer girls participate STEM.
4. There is a lack of policies to increase participation of girls in STEM.
Gender inequality is often thought of as a problem for the developing world, but in reality it is a global issue. This is manifested in the phenomena that fewer girls have the confidence to develop passions for science. According to UNESCO, this results in the further problem that there are few female role-models for girls in STEM fields.
While the goal of general education for girls is important, there should also be a goal for quality and diversity of education. This type of education would actively encourage girls to participate in science lessons and career paths. Basic literacy will not be enough for girls in the future. Today, there is a high demand for employees who have degrees in any of the STEM fields.
In the developing world, STEM education can help women end cycles of poverty for their families. For example, women who work with crafts and textiles can market their goods and access microloans via the Internet if they know how to use a computer. Women in agriculture can also use the Internet to acquire knowledge on how to improve their crop production.
In the developed world, girls with education backgrounds in STEM fields will be able to compete for jobs in the growing field of computer science. They will have the confidence to take informed risks, a skill that many of the sciences teach.
It is necessary to shift the perception of the ability of girls and build their confidence in the science classroom. When girls are told so many times that they cannot do science, some will believe it. There is much work to do through active research projects to inform policy change that supports girls in STEM.
– Iliana Lang