130 STEM ambassadors to be trained by UK experts
600 high school students to receive cascaded training in STEM
Today, the British Council in Vietnam in partnership with Microsoft Corporation held a seminar and training course on ‘Promoting School girls’ Interest and Participation in Science and Innovation through STEM Education and Digital Skills’ with an aim to encourage them to explore their potential by choosing STEM subjects to study at higher education level and pursuing careers in STEM after graduation.
STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is an educational approach that encourages school students to apply combined knowledge of all relevant subjects into solving real-life problems. In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as countries face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, school students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to advanced levels.
'I’m delighted that the UK and Vietnam are collaborating on STEM education. It’s an exciting time for STEM in Vietnam. Maintaining growth will require digitalising and adapting to rapid technological change. There are huge opportunities for students and young people, especially females, to work in STEM fields. The world needs more girls choosing to study science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. STEM Ambassadors play an important role in engaging with young people to help bring STEM subjects to life, demonstrate the value of them in life and careers and show why science matters’ said Anna Pearson, Head of Prosperity, Economic and Political Section, British Embassy.
At the seminar, the British Council and Microsoft Corporation jointly announced the launch of the project ‘Promoting School girls’ Interest and Participation in Science and Innovation through STEM Education and Digital Skills’ which is funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office and Microsoft Vietnam to assist Vietnam in addressing its shortage in STEM human resources and to meet the huge workforce demand of the forthcoming Industrial Revolution 4.0. This project is designed to build on the success of the project ‘Applying UK STEM Education to the Vietnamese context’ carried out in 2016–2017.
Speaking at the launch, Donna McGowan, Country Director of the British Council in Vietnam, said: 'The UK is a global leader in science and innovation and the British Council is very proud to be a partner in developing STEM education nationwide in Vietnam using a contextualised UK model. STEM is a new way to engage students with real- life situations to help them start tackling challenges at local level while gaining an understanding of the global context. The STEM approach offers new opportunities for school teachers to help their students explore STEM related concepts and encourage them, especially school girls, to study STEM subjects at a higher level and pursue careers in STEM after graduation.'
As part of the seminar, Microsoft Corporation awarded 80 ‘YouthSpark’ Scholarships to outstanding female students currently studying computer science and information technology at nine leading universities in Hanoi, Danang, Hue, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City.
In addition to the $600 financial aid per student per year, the programme supports a wide range of training activities to enhance students' employability post-graduation. These YouthSpark scholars were trained with Microsoft technologies and programmes such as developing apps on Azure; cybersecurity, TechFemme, YouthSpark Live, career coaching. In 2017, these scholars also had a chance to participate in the Microsoft Digigirlz School Connects, which were evaluated as the most useful and impressive experience they ever have in their student’s life.
Pham The Truong, Country General Director of Microsoft Vietnam discussed the current situation of gender disparity in technology field: '48 per cent of tech employers in Asia had difficulties filling vacancies in 2015, compared to 28 per cent in 2006. For years, girls and young women have been a critical missing part of STEM studies and careers. The gender disparity in STEM fields can be traced back to social and infrastructural factors, lack of mentors and role models, and lack of awareness about what these fields offer in terms of educational and career opportunities. This partnership is part of Microsoft’s continuous effort to bridge the gender gap in technology field by changing the traditional mindsets of computing as "boring" and "only for boys".'
The project will begin with a three day boot camp (24–26 November) for 130 STEM ambassadors where they are trained by UK experts on how to identify and tackle local issues by developing them into compelling STEM activities that combine business, collaborative and creative elements. Besides, they will have a chance to learn problem solving and communication skills to help cascade STEM information effectively to their peers. As a result, over 600 students from 20 high schools nationwide, of which school girls make up the majority, are expected to receive the cascaded training. The project activities will be implemented through the Centre for Education and Development and Junior Startup Vietnam, a member of BK-Holdings.
Following the boot camp and cascaded training, the project will launch the School Lab Science Communications Competition in January 2019, involving 40 STEM projects, of which 70% of project participants are school girls. Building the capacity of school girls to tackle local issues by applying STEM education will be a major step towards achieving Vietnam’s sustainable development goal of gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls by 2030.
Finally, accordingly to the project plan, a Forum on Promoting STEM Education in Schools will be held in February 2019 where the project outcome including impact monitoring and assessment and solutions to the opportunities and challenges of developing STEM education in Vietnamese schools will be presented. Furthermore, the results of the School Lab Science Communications Contest will also be announced at the forum along with a roadmap for the activities of the STEM ambassadors in the years ahead.