STEM Education is a crucial pillar, not only for the future of the education sector but also for the future of our economy because we want a sustainable economy, which continues to realize the tremendous potential that this country that we love has. To advance the use of science and technology, we must invest in our children, in the education of the science subjects given to our children. We must also help educators and open the door for more people, parents, and members of our communities to become lovers of science because these are subjects that are the pillar of the economic success that our country will go through.
This week, together with Malta Enterprise CEO, Kurt Farrugia, I visited the Science Centre in Pembroke which is one of the annexe buildings within the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes (DLAP). The Centre hosts a number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education Officers that are collectively responsible for the provision of quality STEM Education of all students from early years to Primary and Secondary.
The Science Centre is highly committed to strengthening STEM Education on a national level. Through 3 main pillars, we are aiming to enhance the educational sector in relation to STEM. These three pillars are; STEM Curricula reform, STEM Educator Support and Professional Development, as well as STEM Popularisation.
One aspect of the vision of STEM Popularisation is the challenge to increase the number of students in Secondary Schools who chose to study any of the various Science subjects. Statistics were showing that – worldwide – the number of Year 9 students who were choosing to further their studies in a Science subject was declining. This was taken in hand and accepted as a challenge. In fact numerous initiatives were started and an improvement is being noticed.
Another positive result in the whole process of Science Popularization is the wider knowledge of STEM-related careers – the Science Centre created awareness about “new” careers in this sector – careers in health science, food science, forensic science, sport science, robotika, coding, software engineering, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, game development and aerospace engineering.
We are pleased to note that initiatives taken in this sector – in STEM Popularisation – are giving promising results – in fact in these last years we have noticed a change in how students are making their choices, with the various science subjects now among the top six most chosen subjects from a wide range of around 24 subjects. This might lead to more students furthering their studies in Science related courses in post-secondary and tertiary levels.
This is not only a positive result for all those educators working in the Science sector, and for the commendable efforts of all those at the Science Centre, but also for all prospective employers who yearn to have trained and skilled local workers.
During the visit I was also informed that that as a country we are getting good results abroad in this sector.
Malta obtained great results in the Europeana Education 2020 competition with seven out of the 30 winners of this competition being Maltese teachers – the highest number of winners from the same country. 283 teachers from 18 countries participated in this competition.
For the past 2 years, several Maltese teachers have participated in the Europeana project organised by European Schoolnet, where they designed and implemented various learning scenarios and other teaching resources. This project aims to promote digital cultural heritage in schools across Europe through the use of these resources. This is important because while the national curriculum differs from country to country, we must help learners understand our common European history and appreciate our cultural heritage.
Another outstanding performance was achieved in the Seventh Mathematics Without Borders by TEAM MALTA. The 18 students representing Malta in the Final Round of the Seventh Mathematics Without Borders attained outstanding results.
This was Malta’s fourth participation in the Mathematics Without Borders tournament, a tournament that challenges gifted students and provides them an adequate platform to showcase their exceptional abilities. The Mathematics Without Borders Tournament encourages a competitive spirit amongst participants and a collaborative team approach.
During this year’s Mathematics Without Borders edition 1,621 students from 19 different countries participated in the final round. Due to Covid-19, the final tournament was not held in Nessebar Bulgaria as in previous years. Consequently, while the Bulgarian students who made it to the final sat for the final test in Nessebar, the other students from the other 18 countries competed in their homelands. In our case, the final test took place at the Science Centre Pembroke on the 17th August 2020.
The performance of all 18 Maltese participants was remarkable throughout this journey with Shanel Cassar awarded the title of Maths Star of the Tournament as she was the most successful participant for Malta.
During the visit I congratulated the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes that has recently launched the 6th edition of the Junior Science Club. This after-school programme will be held in five different localities in collaboration with Għarb, Marsaxlokk, Mosta, Pembroke and Safi Local Councils. Further details about the specific Junior Science Club within different localities and relevant application forms, can be obtained from the respective Local Council.
STEM Education in Malta is evolving in the right direction. The Science Centre supports the curricular pedagogical shift to an enquiry-based approach that promotes learners’ engagement, learning and achievement. In this context, the role of trained professional teachers is pivotal to mentor and nurture the next generation of STEM innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders. The extent of national priority and investment in STEM Education will eventually be reflected in the degree of innovation in society and in public economic prosperity.
This Centre collaborates with a range of stakeholders ranging from schools, Local Councils, industry partners and NGOs to foster scientific literacy while nurturing learners’ skills and competences.
It is our commitment to see that we continue to strengthen all that has been achieved in the past years in this educational sector, for the benefit of the students, the educators and also our country.